The following article was produced by Klaus Sievers and Ralf Parzinger of Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) of the German Cockpit Association.
The time has come: In early November 2019 the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) launched its real-time worldwide space weather update service. Three Space Weather Centers (SWXC) will generate and share 24 hour space weather advisories using the existing channels, similar to SIGMET (significant meteorological information). The advisories can thereby go directly to aircraft operators and throughout a flight to flight crew as standard meteorological information.
The advisories provide the most up to date information possible on any solar events, which could potentially impact aircraft systems or passenger health. The aviation safety risks arising from solar events fall primarily into two categories:
1) Large solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) can lead to geomagnetic storms. These can present serious risks regarding the reliable operation of satellites, aircraft and power grids.
2) CMEs also stream heavily energised solar particles at the earth which can significantly increase radiation levels in the atmosphere at traditional aircraft cruising altitudes and even at ground level depending on their intensity.
The format of the space weather report (SWX-ADVISORY) largely follows that of the well-known SIGMET. The messages address the effects on RF (radio frequency) communications, Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) based navigation, and radiation. They are available in two levels: moderate (MOD) and severe (SEV) with additional comments added, as shown in ICAO Annex 3, Appendix 2.
ADVISORY NR: 2016/1
SWX EFFECT: HF COM SEV
OBS SWX: 08/0100Z DAYLIGHT SIDE
FCST SWX +6 HR: 08/0700Z DAYLIGHT SIDE
FCST SWX +12 HR: 08/1300Z DAYLIGHT SIDE
FCST SWX +18 HR: 08/1900Z DAYLIGHT SIDE
FCST SWX +24 HR 09/0100Z NO SWX EXP
RMK: PERIODIC HF COM ABSORPTION AND LIKELY TO CONT IN THE NEAR
CMPL AND PERIODIC LOSS OF HF ON THE SUNLIT SIDE OF THE
CONT HF COM DEGRADATION LIKELY OVER THE NXT
NXT ADVISORY: 20161108/0700Z
The introduction of space weather into the ICAO framework is definitely a step in the right direction. However, we still have some outstanding tasks on the ‘to-do list’ within Europe in particular. First and foremost, the space weather for pilots as per ICAO Annex 3 should be swiftly implemented by European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), national authorities and airlines. Second, all pilots need to acquire the necessary knowledge of space weather and it should form part of the syllabus for student pilots.
Manual on Space Weather Information in Support of International Air Navigation (ICAO Doc 10100)
Manual of Aeronautical Meteorological Practice (ICAO Doc 8896)
IFALPA’s Interpilot magazine
IFALPA leaflet on ionising radiation
Aeronautical Information Circular (France) on Global Space Weather Information Service in support of International AIR Navigation
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