Optimal aircraft performance during microburst encounter

Mark L. Psiaki, Robert F. Stengel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The effects of microburst characteristics on the optimal penetration performance of jet transport and general aviation aircraft are presented. The purpose is to determine the best possible performance that can be achieved in a broad range of microbursts. A secondary goal is to illustrate good strategies for dealing with a range of microbursts during takeoff and landing. Over 1100 optimal trajectories were computed for two aircraft types flying through idealized microbursts using a Successive Quadratic Programs trajectory optimization algorithm. Contours of safety metrics are plotted as functions of the length scales, magnitudes, and locations of horizontal wind shears and vertical downdrafts. These performance contours show three length-scale regimes for optimal microburst penetration. At short length scales, hazards usually associated with gustiness predominate (e.g., high normal load factor, rotational upset). At intermediate length scales, a degraded ability to maintain flight path and/or vertical velocity poses the most serious threat. At very long microburst length scales, excessive touchdown velocities may result. The ability to transit a microburst successfully also varies strongly with microburst location. The results show that both aircraft types could penetrate some very severe microbursts if optimal control histories were followed. Nevertheless, these control strategies assume perfect prior knowledge of the wind, and practical limits to successful encounter with real-time control capabilities would be lower. The optimally controlled jet transport can successfully penetrate higher intensity microbursts than can the general aviation aircraft.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)440-446
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Guidance, Control, and Dynamics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1991

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Applied Mathematics


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