Rotten summers keep you busy – dealing with weather issues

In 2010, the Directors of ATC Operations requested the CFMU (now the NMOC) to lead a trial during the summer period with a number of air traffic control centres (ACCs) to develop a procedure which would identify in advance severe weather phenomena that may impact service delivery in parts of the ATM network.

The ACCs involved were Zurich, Vienna, Skopje, Sofia, Zagreb, Padova, Munich and Milan.

The trial’s first outcome convinced the Directors of Operations that significant performance gains can be made by properly planning responses to severe weather. Proper planning is infinitely better than unstructured reactive activity which could compromise ATC units’ capacity and safety margins.

The trial also highlighted that en-route regulation should not normally be applied on D-1 but closer to three to four hours in advance.

As a follow-up to the trial, a common European ATC/ATFCM severe weather procedure was developed which details reporting, planning, coordination, communication and monitoring accountabilities. It aims at promoting collaborative assessment and activity monitoring with ACCs. Mitigation strategies to moderate demand in the event of a high probability of severe weather are being developed, too.

Today, some ANSPs are willing to act on severe weather warnings and are using the Network Manager to support their decision-making. They are identifying severe weather at an earlier stage (up to 4 hours in advance) and on a more systematic basis.

“The better we are prepared and the more efficiently we share and adopt good practices for ATCOs and ATC supervisors when avoiding bad weather, the more we can improve both overall local and Network performance,” pointed out Joe Sultana, COO of the Network Management Directorate.

Collaboration between the NMOC and the Flow Management Positions across Europe has now gone one step further. The Network Manager is engaging ANSPs in developing a process for anticipating and then reacting to severe weather. This will be achieved by improving alerts and monitoring the evolution of severe weather conditions more closely, while simultaneously developing, coordinating and communicating an agreed course of action to mitigate the effect - as well as managing customer expectations.

The weather assessment is a functionality embedded in the NOP. NMOC provides a Network weather and severe weather assessment on the NOP at D-1, which is updated every 4 hours on the day of operation, until 1800utc.