Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Flightaware Website -- "Light Chop at 30K"

This is a really neat site that allows you to track airplane flights in real time. The site has a movie that shows all of the air traffic across the US yesterday at the link below. Pretty cool.

Link to FlightAware website

If you've ever been able to listen to air traffic controllers on the headsets they give you that hook into the arm of your chair, have a listen for a couple o minutes. It's really a fascinating process. In a nutshell, certain regional air traffic control towers direct and monitor your flight, until you enter the airspace of the airport you are landing at. All during your flight and prior to entering this space to begin your final descent to land, you basically hear the pilots constantly checking in saying "light chop at 30K" or "heavy chop at 35K"...Chop is short for turbulence, which is what every pilot tries to avoid. The air traffic controllers then try and take all this real time data and keep their airplanes at altitudes with light chop (laminar flow) along their vectors, steering them away from one another to maintain a safe distance. Finally, when you enter the landing airport's airspace, the regional airspace controllers hand your pilots off to "Philadelphia" for descent. Very coordinated, and you hear some funny things too.

So while obvious, in the context of flying, turbulence is a bad thing. But did you ever wonder what turbulence actually is, and why the plane ride gets very bumpy when you fly through it? Well, I used to design and install downstream filtration units that would filter and separate bioreactor products from waste byproducts, and turbulence is something I know a lot about. If you know what the graph below shows, you and I should talk:

Please see my upcoming future post about turbulence, and why it's important across so many contexts, like flight, filtration, golf, baseball, and more.