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: 757/864-9886) RELEASE 98-86
May 20, 1998
NASA SELECTS TEAMS FOR RESEARCH AGREEMENTS -A "WEATHER CHANNEL" IN EVERY COCKPIT? Airlines and smaller airplanes are one step closer to having up-to-the-minute, graphical weather displays in their cockpits, thanks in part to a new NASA aviation safety initiative. NASA has selected research proposals from eight industry teams to develop Aviation Weather Information (AWIN) systems for commercial airliners and general aviation aircraft. "Pilots tell us their number one priority is graphical weather information. We want to make it as easy to get a weather channel in the cockpit as it is in your living room. Technologies already exist that could help make that happen," said Michael Lewis, Director, NASA Aviation Safety Program (AvSP), based at the Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA. AvSP is a partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the aviation industry (manufacturers and operators) and the Department of Defense (DOD). This partnership supports the national goal announced by President Clinton last year to reduce the fatal aircraft accident rate by 80 percent in 10 years and by 90 percent over two decades. The weather information selections are one of NASA's new investments in that ambitious challenge. NASA asked U.S. companies to submit proposals for research, development, prototyping and implementation of AWIN systems and components. Industry teams submitted more than 40 proposals in three weather information categories: a national and worldwide system, a general aviation system and topical areas or specific components. NASA, FAA and DOD researchers evaluated the proposals based on technical merit, cost and feasibility. NASA has set aside more than $8 million that will be matched by industry to fund AWIN projects over the next eighteen months. More money is expected to be designated later to accelerate commercialization and make some systems available within five years. For the first phase of the program, teams led by Honeywell and Boeing/McDonnell Douglas Corp. will receive up to $2.4 million apiece to develop a national and worldwide AWIN solution. Over the same 18-month period, the NavRadio group will be awarded up to $1.2 million and the ARNAV team, up to $400,000, for a general aviation weather information system. Other teams led by Rockwell International, Honeywell and NavRadio will split $1.6 million to develop specific components for AWIN.
NASA envisions a futuristic system that would allow aircraft to be both a source and user of weather information. Airborne sensors would provide data for weather systems on board the plane, on the ground and in other aircraft. In the cockpit would be easy-to-read, real-time displays that can show weather across the country, not just a limited number of miles ahead. That way pilots could more easily monitor possible trouble spots and make better, more cost-efficient routing decisions. That weather information would get to and from aircraft by satellite and ground transceivers using broadcast datalink and two way communications systems. Many industry teams also propose to incorporate decision aids into their AWIN designs. Those could include, among other tools, alarm systems or displays of suggested routes to help pilots better avoid potentially hazardous weather situations. The aviation safety initiative was created in the summer of 1997 by NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin in response to a report from the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security, chaired by Vice President Al Gore. NASA has designated about $500 million over five years for aviation safety, with more funding expected to follow. Researchers at four NASA field installations are working with the FAA and industry to develop affordable, implementable technologies to make flying safer: Langley; Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, CA; Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, CA; and Lewis Research Center in Cleveland, OH. Because of advances in the last 40 years commercial airliners are already the safest of all major modes of transportation. But with an accident rate that has remained relatively constant in the last decade and air traffic expected to triple over the next 20 years, the U.S. government wants to prevent a projected rise in the number of aircraft accidents. For more information on the NASA Aviation Safety Program please check the Internet at: www.hq.nasa.gov/office/aero/oastthp/programs/avsaf/avsafpro.htm For a list of AWIN industry teams, please see: http://oea.larc.nasa.gov/news_rels/1998/May98/98_23.html - end -