Delta launches landmark app to avoid terrifying turbulence

Delta pilots have a new tool to avoid flight turbulence – one of the scariest parts of flying for many passengers.

Delta’s Flight Weather Viewer app, which debuted in April, gives pilots real-time graphics of turbulence observations on the flight deck, according to a Delta press release.

Weather is the main cause of a rough ride, and South Florida’s volatile rainy season can produce some of the biggest potholes in the sky.

“Very rarely do we ever encounter severe turbulence, but people think that light turbulence is severe and it scares them,” Palm Beach State College Professor Judy Maxwell told The Palm Beach Post last year. Maxwell heads the school’s Aeronautical Science Program. “If you hit a bump in the road, you wouldn’t be scared. It’s kind of the same thing in the air.”


The new Delta app, which is customized by aircraft type, allows pilots to put in their flight plan and see where turbulence is and see how it’s impacting flights.

Special algorithms developed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research are used in the app.

“Traditionally, pilots receive a pre-flight briefing on expected flight conditions,” according to the Delta press release. “These briefings include pilot reports, also known as PIREPS, with limited, subjective and often outdated information. As tablets replaced paper charts and manuals, pilots began using apps in the flight deck.”

Delta, which has a team of 25 meteorologists, is expecting to see a reduction in turbulence-related injuries and maintenance requirements on planes.

There are three main types of turbulence.

• Convective turbulence is caused by thunderstorms formed as the sun heats the land and the warm moist air rises and cools into clouds. When the clouds can’t hold any more water, it rains, causing a downdraft of cold air and wind.

• Clear-air turbulence cannot be detected visually and is not associated with clouds. It occurs typically in the high atmosphere with variations of wind in jet streams — currents of air in the Earth’s atmosphere caused by the planet’s rotation and heating by the sun.

• Mechanical or mountain turbulence happens when wind encounters tall obstructions, such as mountains, trees or buildings that disrupt its smooth flow. The disrupted air can form eddies on the other side of the obstruction that will jostle the plane.