Every airport records weather data in the form of Meteorological Aerodrome Reports, or METARs. This is usually used in the very short term to help pilots and air traffic control manage a minute by minute situation and make adjustments to ensure that an aircraft takes off and lands safely. In addition, a METAR is used to write a Terminal Aerodrome Forecast (TAF) for several hours ahead so that decisions can be made to account for inclement (or benign) weather conditions.
But did you know that METARs can be used retrospectively? This is where the Met Office comes in. From our archives we can use hundreds of METARs recorded over many years to paint a picture of what conditions are like at an airfield.
Why would an airline or airport want to know this? For example, let’s say an airline is looking to open up a new route from one of their hubs to the Isle of Man. They want to use a particular type of aircraft, perhaps one that is sensitive to strong winds. From using the METAR data the Met Office scientists can source the number of days that the winds went above the threshold required for the aircraft to operate safely. The airline can look at that data and see if it is worth opening up that route. If the weather data suggests they will have to divert half the time, it probably isn’t worth the time and expense of scheduling flights there.
Similarly, if an airport is attempting to drum up new business from an airline, they could use the same data to demonstrate that conditions at their airfield are suitable for aircraft of a certain type to land there safely. This would make them a more attractive airport for airlines to open routes to.
Historical data allows for decision making to happen without huge costs or loss of face, and means an airport or airline can be confident when expanding their operations.
Jonny Hughes- Account Manager