FLIGHT+ Dataset | About the Flight Level Dataset (FLIGHT+)

About the Flight Level Dataset (FLIGHT+)

The second phase of this project built a new dataset of standardized flight level data. This dataset covers most Atlantic, Eastern Pacific, and Central Pacific tropical cyclones with flight level data during the period from 1997 to 2019. The dataset also includes flights in certain Western Pacific TCs in 2008 and 2010. The flight level data is provided in both earth-relative and storm-relative coordinates at the highest temporal resolution available (e.g. 30-second, 10-second, or 1-second). Additionally, flight level data has been parsed by radial leg and interpolated to a standardized radial grid. Significant effort has been undertaken to quality control the data. The dataset was released to RPI member companies in August 2014. The dataset was released to the public on 20 April 2016 and has been updated most recently on 31 January 2021. All users are encouraged to download the most recent version of the dataset (v1.3).

How to cite the FLIGHT+ Dataset

   Vigh, J. L., N. M. Dorst, C. L. Williams, D. P. Stern, E. W. Uhlhorn, B. W. Klotz, 
	J. Martinez, H. E. Willoughby, F. D. Marks, Jr., D. R. Chavas, 2020: 
        FLIGHT+: The Extended Flight Level Dataset for Tropical Cyclones 
	(Version 1.3). Tropical Cyclone Data Project, National Center for Atmospheric 
        Research, Research Applications Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado. 
        [Available online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.5065/D6WS8R93.] Accessed* dd mmm yyyy.

where * dd mmm yyyy is the date which you last accessed the dataset (e.g., 25 May 2020).

Navigate this section

The current page provides author contributions, acknowledgments, funding information, and the copyright/sponsorship notice for the FLIGHT+ Dataset. On the other pages in this section, the reader can learn more about the data sources for the dataset, download the dataset and accompanying documentation, view visualizations of these data, learn how other people have used the dataset, and review relevant references that can be cited when the dataset is used.

Author Contributions

Dr. Jonathan Vigh developed all of the methods and codes to read, standardize, parse, and process the flight level data into radial legs and, then write them out to the final dataset output. These codes including algorithms that automatically determine the limits of the radial legs, and which conduct some automatic quality control of the data.

Mr. Neal Dorst provided substantial support in provisioning flight level data and wind center track files. In particular, Neal processed nearly all of the wind center track files used to translate the flight level data into storm relative coordinates. Neal also uncovered a number of data files with higher resolution flight data than was given on HRD's web and ftp servers. These data are invaluable.

Mr. Christopher Williams provided substantial assistance to visually quality control the earth-relative flight level data, and provided helpful feedback on the dataset documentation.

Dr. Daniel Stern found several important bugs in the dataset during his use; he tracked down the potential cause of several of these issues, and after the fixes were implemented, substantially more radial leg data were available.

Dr. Eric Uhlhorn and Dr. Bradley Klotz provided helpful guidance regarding data issues from the Stepped Frequency Microwave Radiometer (SFMR).

Mr. Jonathan Martinez provided helpful feedback on an earlier version of the dataset. He and his advisor, Dr. Michael Bell, suggested a method for calculating an estimated flight level pressure for flights which are missing this parameter (mainly before 2004).

Dr. Hugh Willoughby (and the late Ed Rahn) were the originators of the original flight level dataset. has provided helpful advice and encouragement since the inception of the project.

Dr. Frank Marks, Jr. has also provided guidance, encouragement, and support since the beginning of the project.

Dr. Daniel Chavas provided helpful advice on the data set structure and documentation.


We owe an enormous debt to the brave flight crews of the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, NOAA's Aircraft Operation Center personnel, and the Hurricane Research Division scientists who put themselves at risk each time they collect these vital data. Without their dedication and diligence, this data set would not exist. We especially honor the crew members of the three planes who paid the ultimate price to collect these data.

We are extremely grateful to the NOAA Hurricane Research Division for provisioning all of the flight level data, which no doubt has been a very time consuming task. Without HRD's support, little progress would have been made. The wind center track files that are so crucial to this project were painstakingly constructed over many years by the late Ed Rahn, and more recently, by Neal Dorst. Neal Dorst in particular has done a tremendous job at supporting this project on the HRD side. Much thanks to Dr. Frank Marks for his support of this initiative, and to Dr. Rob Rogers for providing helpful advice.

We also thank Barry Damiano, Sonia Otero, Richard Henning, Eric Dutton, and Jack Parrish for answering our many questions about the AOC and AFRES flight data formats and for helping to rescue 'lost' data for certain flights.

We owe a debt of gratitude to Mary Haley, David Brown, Wei Huang, Rick Brownrigg, Dennis Shea, and the entire NCAR Command Language (NCL) development team for their wonderful support and programming advice. They often went above and beyond the call of duty to assist in troubleshooting difficult issues that were encountered.

We would like to acknowledge high-performance computing support from Cheyenne (doi:/10.5065/D6RX99HX) provided by NCAR's Computational and Information Systems Laboratory, sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

Software used in the development of the FLIGHT+ Dataset:

The NCAR Command Language (Version 6.6.2) [Software]. (2019). Boulder, Colorado: UCAR/NCAR/CISL/TDD. http://dx.doi.org/10.5065/D6WD3XH5

Funding which supported development of the FLIGHT+ Dataset:

The initial development of the code to process the flight level dataset research was supported by NASA/TCSP Grant NNG06GA54G and by NSF Grants ATM-0332197 and ATM-0837932 when Jonathan was a PhD candidate at Colorado State University. He especially thanks his former advisor, Dr. Wayne Schubert, for allowing him to spend time on this. The NCAR Mesoscale and Microscale Meteorology Division, the Advanced Study Program, and the Development Testbed Center Visitor Program (FY2012), provided interim support that aided further development of this project during 2010-2015.

The completion of the v1.0 through v1.2 datasets was made possible due to substantial funding support from the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS) Risk Prediction Initiative (RPI2.0), funded collectively by the RPI member (re)insurance companies.

The extension of the v1.3 dataset to 2016-2019 was made possible due to substantial funding support from the NOAA Hurricane Forecast Improvement Project (HFIP) FY2018 grant NA18NWS4680058 entitled "New Frameworks for Predicting Extreme Rapid Intensification."

Copyright and Sponsorship Notice

This product was created by the Research Applications Laboratory of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), which is a major facility sponsored by the National Science Foundation under Cooperative Agreement No. 1852977.

Copyright © 2016-2021, UCAR


This page was last updated 07 March 2021 by Jonathan Vigh.