Winter has arrived in force and we have to try to mitigate its effects. The best way of doing this is to make sure that the right information reaches the right people in good time. The Network Manager is helping coordinate this information exchange and provides a comprehensive and up-to-date picture of the network situation, including airports.
Snow - but not snowed under!
The Network Manager Operations Centre (NMOC) has stepped up its activities in the area of meteorological forecasts so as to better anticipate and mitigate the effects of adverse weather on capacity.
Snow fell as soon as December began this winter - and it gave NMOC the opportunity of trying out the improved procedures which were put in place following the memorable winter of 2010.
Airports breaking the ice
On Thursday 6 December 2012, Central Europe was snowed in. Most of the delays were caused by bad weather and made up 81.3% of all the network delays. Snow was the main problem at Stockholm, Aberdeen, Copenhagen, London Luton and London Stansted. Amsterdam and Roma Fiumicino were also regulated due to weather.
NMOC took immediate action to analyse and assess the situation and established contact with the aircraft operators, the FMPs (Flow Management Positions) and the affected airports and held a teleconference at 1330 UTC.
EUROCONTROL's Airports Unit has been making a concentrated effort to improve collaboration and to exchange more information with airports, so NMOC was not surprised to meet with higher levels of confidence on the part of airports. Some of them - Amsterdam, Düsseldorf, Brussels, Frankfurt as well as the Swiss and Parisian airports - present at the teleconference provided good quality pre-tactical information.
In consequence, the Network Manager had a much clearer picture of the situation. The information was published on the NOP Portal for the mutual benefit of all.
Regular updates were provided by the major airports affected on that day; these dealt with time estimations for forecasted snow, runway operations' capacity, etc. Pre-tactical regulations were activated to make for more stability and better predictability. We tried to issue these updates every three hours, giving details on the depth of snow, diversions, delays, arrival capacities, etc.
NMOC is currently working closely with the Airports Unit to compile and maintain a list of contacts at airports. We are also establishing a set of information that airports can provide on a standard basis - such as snow clearance, local forecasts, capacity - as far in advance as possible, so as to improve stability, predictability and to expedite the post-event recovery process.
The power of teleconferences
Regular discussions are held with air navigation service providers (ANSPs) to properly evaluate the likely effects on capacity and to prepare a set of mitigation measures.
When bad weather and significant disruption are expected, NMOC contacts airport authorities and their associated air navigation services providers.
NMOC constantly monitors the forecast and actual weather situation throughout Europe and keeps the flow management positions (FMPs) informed.
Teleconferences and other collaborative processes unite airports, airlines, air navigation service providers, weather experts, airline associations (IATA and IACA). EUROCONTROL personnel are regularly called on to monitor and assess the situation, plan and implement measures on a network level and inform all users about how the situation is evolving.
The headlines on the Network Operations portal (NOP) are constantly updated with any changes so that airspace users are kept fully aware of the situation - both globally and for individual flights.
We have learned that sharing meteorological information on an operational level is beneficial to all. The Weather Assessment feature, which has been available since the winter of 2011 on the NOP Portal, helps ANSPs and aircraft operators anticipate potential severe weather events and both identify and monitor the ATFCM measures needed to minimise the impact.
NMOC is responsible for monitoring the overall situation, seeing that agreed procedures are being implemented and ensuring that any additional measures and proposals that become necessary are agreed and acted upon.
A comprehensive set of operational measures are ready for deployment, including:
planning of diversions to airports that are still operating normally
preventing flights from departing to affected airports
avoiding any airspace congestion in the European network
planning and implementing orderly recovery measures, etc.
keeping all the stakeholders abreast of the latest available information so they can plan accordingly.
NMOC reviews and updates the measures in place as the weather evolves. It stays in constant contact with those airports that could have significant impact on the network, sharing detailed information on the local situation and the level of preparation.
Teleconferences are the central place where airports connect with other airports, where aircraft operators find a clearer picture of the situation - capacity levels and diversion capabilities, for instance - so allowing them to run their own operational decision-making processes, such as flight cancellations.