The Scientific Blessing of Modern Wind Shear Alerting Systems for Aviation

Wow, what an afternoon in Wichita. Downbursts all over the city, including at my home. And, because two strong downbursts were near airports, we could have had a tragedy.

McConnell Air Force Base
The first of the downbursts occurred about 2:40pm. The peak gust from the northeast was 46 knots, which was 53 mph. "McC" points to the runway complex at the base. "D" is the center of the downburst and the arrows are the wind directions. These images are Doppler wind data from the Wichita Terminal Doppler Weather Radar, which was specifically designed to detect downbursts in time to prevent once-frequent crashes. 
If you are a pilot or meteorologist, you may find the METARs of the event (KIAB) to be interesting (click to enlarge).

Eisenhower National Airport
Across town at Eisenhower (our commercial airline airport), they had a gust from the east southeast at 50 knots, which is 58 mph. I've circled the runway complex. 

And, here are the METARs for KICT.

In addition to the aviation hazard, the 60 mph winds have caused power failures to 600 homes.

Addition:  There was a measured wind gust of 67 mph in northwest Wichita with a third downburst. 

From the late 1960's to the 1980's, downbursts such as these were the #1 cause of commercial airline crashes that killed hundreds. These special radars along with "low level wind shear alert systems" have completely prevented U.S. downburst crashes since 1994. A major scientific accomplishment for which Ted Fujita, John McCarthy and the others involved should have received a Nobel Prize. 


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