Washington: NASA scientists have developed a tool that would help airlines minimise weather delays and save both flight time and fuel.
Known as Dynamic Weather Routes (DWR), this computer software tool is programmed to constantly analyse air traffic throughout the National Airspace System along with the ever-shifting movements of weather severe enough to require an airliner to effect a course change.
When the DWR tool finds an opportunity for an airliner to fly more efficiently to its destination, saving time and money, while also remaining at a safe distance from the storm, the computer rings an alert to the airline flight dispatcher.
American Airlines has been using DWR since 2012.
According to it, on one flight of a Boeing 777 flying from Dallas/Fort Worth to Buenos Aires, the software tool helped save 26 minutes from the original planned route around a line of thunderstorms.
"The analysis of the DWR test data indicates there was an estimated savings of 3,355 flying minutes for 538 American Airlines flights from July 2012 through September 2014, or about 6.2 minutes per flight on average," said David McNally, lead engineer for DWR at NASA's Ames Research Centre, California in the US.
The tool proved to be of vital importance for nearly 15,000 flights flying through north Texas in 2013 for which DWR identified re-route opportunities, the savings in flight time could add up to about 100,000 flying minutes - or more than two months' worth of fuel burning and time not wasted in the air.
The tool has also tested well in ongoing field trials that involved the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
"This DWR tool, developed and tested by NASA in partnership with American Airlines and the FAA, is going to benefit everyone who flies," added NASA administrator Charlie Bolden.