Microbursts and Windshear in Aviation
Much has been learned in the world of aviation since its beginnings concerning weather and its effects on air travel. Often times weather conditions such as hail, snow storms, and thunderstorms were to blame for aerospace incidents. Weather proved to be both an aircrafts best friend or worst enemy. Periodically aircraft would crash with no apparent reason and it took some time for those in the aviation world to attribute these crashes to two phennomenon of which few were aware. These two strange and deadly weather conditions know as windshear and microbursts can be the cause of these unforeseen accidents. Windshear is a generic term referring to any rapidly changing wind currents (NASA Facts On Line, 1992, p. 1). A microburst is a pattern of damaging winds driven outward near the surface by the ground impact of an unusually strong convective downdraft (NOAA/Forecast Systems Laboratory, 1994, p. 1).
There have been incredible advances in technology that have had great impact in regards to avoiding and maneuvering aircraft through microbursts and windshear. In 1992 NASA conducted a research project called the Windshear Airborne Sensors Program that led to advanced technological systems that began to be installed on aircraft to detect change in wind patterns to alert pilots (Airborne Trailblazer, 1992, p. 2). This project also developed training programs for pilots to teach them how to maneuver an aircraft if caught in adverse weather conditions. In addition, research projects have also contributed to the drastic advances in meteorological detection equipment that detects and forecasts weather conditions from the air and on the ground. The National Center for Atmospheric Research, NCAR, conducted experiments to measure microbursts to determine safe parameters under which aircraft can fly safely (Airborne Trailblazer, 1992, p. 5).
John McCarthy, a meteorologist with the National Center for Atmospheric...