Atmospheric Turbulence And The Evolution Of Aviation Technology In The A220

| January 9, 2019 @ 9:30 am


Image Courtesy: Airbus

DISCUSSION: Often many do not see the connection between aviation and meteorology, there can be a basic assumption that aircraft can withstand a wide variety of weather phenomena, which is often true but some are lacking in overall capability. In addition to specialized instruments needed for aircraft, basic meteorology is on the forefront of a major phenomena that most airline passengers typically ask meteorologists about, turbulence.

According to the American Meteorological Society, aircraft turbulence is, “ irregular motion of an aircraft in flight, especially when characterized by rapid up-and-down motion, caused by a rapid variation of atmospheric wind velocities.” Which, “this can occur in cloudy areas (particularly towering cumulus and lenticular clouds) and in clear air. Turbulence is the leading cause of nonfatal passenger and flight attendant injuries. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) classifies aircraft turbulence as follows:

  • Light: Causes slight, erratic changes in altitude and/or attitude, and rhythmic bumpiness as occupants feel a slight strain against seat belts.
  • Moderate: Similar to light, but of greater intensity, with rapid bumps or jolts, and occupants feel a slight strain against seat belts.
  • Severe: Turbulence that causes large, abrupt changes in altitude and attitude, and large variations in airspeed, with the aircraft temporarily out of control. Occupants are forced violently against their seat belts and objects are tossed about, with food service and walking impossible.
  • Extreme: The aircraft is tossed about so violently that it is practically impossible to control, and structural damage may occur.”

While there are a variety of aircraft that do not have operational limitations, some aircraft such as the Canadair (CRJ) 200 or Embraer (ERJ) 140/45, often must remain grounded (until weather should pass) due to lack of ACARS (Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System) (CRJ 200), and weight and balance issues. Aircraft and its flight are also limited to the use of visual flight rules (VFR) or instrument flight rules (IFR) based on aircraft and pilot ratings.

Turbulence is by far one of the most noticeable connections between aviation and meteorology, of course behind the use of air as a fluid, the forces of flight and Bernoulli’s Principle. As we investigate turbulence, we can often just deduce that turbulence is the flow of atmospheric winds due to the rising and sinking of air in the atmosphere. Should we further explore wind in turbulent flow we can consider that all turbulence is, is atmospheric motion, and as height increased, pressure typically decreases, with wind increasing, creating various components of vertical motion going on while moving horizontally in the atmosphere within an aircraft.

Airbus has created the A220-100, built as the smallest jetliner in the Airbus family, designed to serve the 100-135 seat market, in addition to the A220-300 to serve the 130-160 market. These new aircraft are attempting to put down the days of the MD-80, and B717 while providing an economical and efficient aircraft, compared to previous iterations. What is of note is its turbulence avoidance technology which according to CBS News, “shows pilots where the smooth air is by crowdsourcing data from all of Delta’s aircraft.” Pilots are hailing this new technology, rather than attempting to maneuver the aircraft to find it, it can be found on the instrument panel. In addition to this valuable technology the aircraft was designed for hot, and high, city-like environments, an ideal aircraft for places like Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport where extreme temperatures often limit aircraft arrivals and departures in the summer months.

For further information on aviation and weather visit the Global Weather and Climate Center!

© 2019 Meteorologist Jessica Olsen


“A220-100.” Airbus, Airbus,

Van Cleave, Kris. “Delta’s New Airbus A220 Features Wider Coach Seats and Turbulence Avoidance Technology.” CBS News, CBS News, 28 Dec. 2018,

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