New Gadget Helps Airlines Avoid Bad Weather

Southwest Airlines using air vapor monitor to track latest conditions

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Southwest Airlines have attached a new gadget to the side of its planes that measure temperature, wind speed and humidity. The device transmits to Southwest Airlines headquarters and the National Weather Service in real time. (Published Wednesday, Jan 22, 2014)

    A new instrument attached to the side of jets is helping Southwest Airlines decide when it is safe to fly into bad weather.

    The gadget measures temperature, winds and humidity. This data is then transmitted in real time to the airline’s headquarters in Dallas and also to the National Weather Service.

    A shoebox-sized device inside planes measures water vapor.

    Southwest has its own team of meteorologists using the data to help decide when to re-route its planes around storms.

    "It's a never-ending struggle,” said Southwest meteorologist Rick Curtis. “Sometimes Mother Nature gets the heads up on us. We battle her every day. Most days we win. But some days we don't."

    The airline employees four full-time weather experts who work inside Southwest’s operations center – a 24-hour per day operation that is based on the second-floor of Southwest’s headquarters at Love Field Airport.

    It is the nerve center of the airline. With the real-time sensors, Southwest can track conditions from the ground -- up to 41,000 feet.

    Curtis said the devices will be improved next year to also track turbulence, so pilots can warn flights behind them about bumpy conditions.

    "We're in the business of getting people from Point A to Point B safetly,” Curtis said. “And if this helps, that's why we're here.”