When you think of how weather impacts aviation, wind might not be the first element that comes to mind. Snow, sleet, thunderstorms, heavy rain, fog…there are countless ways the weather can delay airline operations.
But over the last 14 years, wind events — crosswinds above 30mph or tailwinds above 10mph — have dramatically increased, causing delays and shutting down airports around the country. According to JetBlue, wind events doubled every year since 2016, reaching well over 1000 separate events in 2020 in Boston alone.
We sat down with Daniel Blake, General Manager of Station Operations at JetBlue Airways, at ClimaCon 2021 to find out more. He’s spent the last fourteen years overseeing all facets of day-to-day operations across multiple departure points.
How Wind Impacts Airline Operations
“Our number one priority at JetBlue, at all times, is safety. When winds get above 30 miles per hour, it does cause a number of safety risks for our crew members. Working with Tomorrow.io is extremely important to help us continue to operate in the safest manner when it comes to wind.” – Daniel Blake, JetBlue Airways
On the ground at any given time, you have multiple aircraft and heavy, fragile equipment. Without properly securing gear, high winds can create projectiles that can cause harm to the aircraft or to team members.
Having detailed weather forecasts helps Blake and his team be ready for anything. He remembers a particular instance when high winds snuck up on the team, putting them at risk:
“Once, we had an aircraft at a gate during high winds, which caused the precondition air hose coupling unit to come loose from the aircraft. That’s the hose that is attached from the jetway, and the winds snapped it loose. Luckily there was no damage, but it was a good learning event for us, because we’ve had weather events where the hoses have come close to being pulled off the aircraft, and that means the aircraft has to go out of service.”
When the JetBlue team knows high winds are coming, they immediately launch into action to protect crew and equipment with a detailed checklist for every piece of equipment, evacuating team members if needed. But that also impacts their performance, delaying and canceling flights and disrupting travel. Blake benchmarks every minute of a delay at $80, adding up to thousands of dollars in an hour.
How JetBlue Uses Tomorrow.io to Always Be Prepared
With Tomorrow.io, JetBlue’s operations team monitors upcoming weather events and sets up automatic alerts for the team. If the forecast predicts more than 25mph winds, it triggers their high wind procedures, giving them a little more time as a warning before winds increase to 30 or higher, which stops everything. Getting alerts for the impending weather allows them to time delays, staff appropriately for upcoming shifts, and make sure they can protect the aircraft, the team, and their customers.
“Paying attention to the weather means we’re running our business with known risks. Using Tomorrow.io for the last four years, we’ve been able to clearly implement procedures so we can be as proactive as possible. Our main goal is to contribute to safety and efficiency, and we see the impact of weather every minute of the day, especially in a place like Boston.”
Blake sets any alerts like this to re-alert every eight hours, so that every shift change has all the pieces of information they need and adds another layer of protection. That way, every shift manager knows the situation, understands the protocols that need to be in place, and makes sure that the experience feels seamless to their customers.
Proactively Manage Wind Events with Tomorrow.io
And they do it all with Tomorrow.io.
“Now you can run a business knowing what’s coming at you from a weather standpoint. If you don’t know how weather is going to impact your operations, you’re setting yourself up for unneeded risk, and that lack of safety is never acceptable. These weather events are going to keep happening, and Tomorrow.io’s technology will guide us through.”
See how JetBlue uses Tomorrow.io to improve safety, make better decisions, and save money.