August 13, 2013
By Jim Moore
Advanced warning, or even avoidance of clear-air turbulence may be possible in coming years, and a Cessna Citation is flying circuits out of Amsterdam and over Europe to make it happen.
The joint effort by various European aerospace agencies seeks to detect wind shear strong enough to produce waves which compromise smooth airflow over wings, and lift. Those waves are the cause of clear-air turbulence.
A short-wave, ultraviolet laser mounted on a probe extending forward of the Citation’s nose sends a beam along the flight path, and sensitive instruments measure the backscatter, or reflection, of that light from air molecules. The density of oxygen and nitrogen can then be calculated, and clear air turbulence is then revealed indirectly.
Researchers from several countries are collaborating in hope that one day a cockpit instrument could give pilots enough warning to direct passengers to their seats, or, better still, steer around the bumps.
AOPA Online Associate Editor Jim Moore joined AOPA in 2011 and is an instrument-rated private pilot who enjoys competition aerobatics.
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