Tuesday, September 7, 2010

NASA Chat: Cheating the Weather to Improve On-Time Arrivals

We've all heard this announcement on an airplane before: "Uh, folks, we've got some weather around the airport right now. So I expect we'll be circling probably for the next half hour or so." Heather Arneson, a NASA Aeronautics Scholarship recipient and doctoral student at the University of Illinois, spent her summer at NASA working on ways to better control flows of aircraft into airspace impacted by weather.

"Weather conditions in recent years have caused approximately 65 percent of delays," says Arneson. "When weather is present near in an airspace, the number of flight allowed to occupy that airspace becomes lower than normal. Current methods of scheduling and routing flights that might fly through airspace predicted to experience bad weather can excessively delay flights. I'm seeing how mathematical optimization and modeling techniques can help us use that space more efficiently and reduce delays caused by weather."

Heather's solution can react in real-time as the weather and capacity situation changes. At NASA's Ames Research Center in California this summer, she simulated her new traffic strategy to see how well it worked.

Join Heather on Thursday, September 9, at 3:00 p.m. EDT to chat about her experiences at NASA, about applying for the aeronautics scholarship, or even just about being an engineering student in today's competitive environment. To join the chat, simply visit this page on September 9. The chat window will open at the bottom of this page starting at 2:30 p.m. EDT. You can log in and be ready to ask questions at 3:00 p.m.

See you in chat!

More About Heather Arneson

Heather is working on her doctorate in aerospace engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She has a masters in that field already and a bachelors degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering from Cornell University. Originally from Rhode Island, Heather also worked for several years as a member of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Panoramic Camera Team, using her engineering skills to help the team acquire images of the Martian landscape.

For more information visit http://www.nasa.gov/connect/chat/air_traffic_chat.html

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