New From NASA: Next-Generation PIREPS

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Pilots now can get better weather information thanks to new airborne sensors that NASA has installed on a fleet of commuter airliners. Sixty-four Saab 340 aircraft flown by Minneapolis-based Mesaba Airlines now carry the Tropospheric Airborne Meteorological Data Report (TAMDAR) sensor, which automatically senses and reports atmospheric conditions. Observations are sent by satellite to a ground data center, which processes and distributes the data to forecasters, pilots and weather briefers. "Our goal is to give pilots better weather information, so they can make better decisions in flight," said Taumi Daniels, TAMDAR project leader at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. The TAMDAR sensor is compact and weighs only 1.5 pounds. It measures humidity, winds, pressure, temperature, icing and turbulence. Location, time and altitude are provided by built-in GPS technology. Using the systems on regional jets instead of airliners means the data comes from lower altitudes, below 25,000 feet, where most weather is happening.