American Airlines

Weather software developed by NASA helps American save fuel

A new weather software program is helping American Airlines reroute flights around severe weather while still getting passengers to their destinations in a timely fashion.

The program, called Dynamic Weather Routes and created by NASA, has been tested by American, saving the carrier 3,500 flying minutes on 500 flights during the test period.

“NASA-developed technologies are on every aircraft that is flown today,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, who visited American’s network operations center Friday to see the program at work. “We like to say that NASA is with you when you fly.”

The program automatically and continuously searches for alternative flight paths for aircraft that need to avoid severe weather.

This month, it was used to reroute a flight from Dallas/Fort Worth Airport to New Orleans so it could fly around storms in East Texas. Instead of traveling over northern Arkansas and then south over Mississippi, which would have taken an extra 30 minutes, the software found a route between the storm cells that added only 22 minutes.

“It allows the flights to thread the needle,” American aircraft dispatcher Mike Sterenchuk said. “About 80 percent of the [alternative flight route] requests we’ve sent in pay the dividends and give us that fuel savings opportunity.”

By using the new route, the flight to New Orleans saved about $1,600 on fuel, he said. American expects to eventually use the program throughout its network, not just on DFW flights.

NASA said the software could save 20 to 40 minutes on flights operating during severe weather. Other airlines and the Air Force are also interested in using the software, Bolden said.

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