How did the ATM network perform last week?

21 June 2016

Did you fly in Europe last week? Did you encounter any delay? If so, would you like to know why? Here is an overview of what happened last week in the European airspace network and how the Network Manager Operations Centre helped mitigate the problems.

Situation during the week

Several strikes hit Sweden, France and Italy. SAS pilots stopped work on 10 June and this resulted in the cancellation of around 240 flights. Air France pilots did the same from 11 to 14 June; some 180 flights were cancelled in consequence.

The French ATC strike ran from 13 June at 19.00 until 15 June at 06.00. The NMOC mitigation plan was activated over the weekend: it consists of a set of measures taken together with adjacent ACCs to facilitate routing and to accept traffic impacted by the disruption. The military helped a great deal in mitigating the impact, too. The e-helpdesk in the Network Operations Centre dealt with 729 queries and sent 196 Reroute proposals to help airlines avoid the affected area. The total network delay accounted for 54,730 minutes, with Karlsruhe and Maastricht as the most affected neighbouring ACCs. First indications show that 570 flights were cancelled.

The Italian strike took place on Friday 17 June between 13.00 and 17.00. Only departure and arrival traffic was affected; overflights were allowed. The late notification reduced possibilities for good coordination on a network level: a lot of regulation updates were introduced to mitigate bunching and flights had to be excluded manually. The network delay reached a total of 11,473 minutes.

Implementing new ATC equipment (an ongoing procedure) in Langen ACC and in Prestwick ACC made for 4,775 minutes and 12,562 minutes of delay respectively for the whole week.

A radar failure on 14 June forced Stavanger ACC to declare a zero rate (total closure of the airspace) for two hours in the morning; this caused 3,863 minutes of delay.

Situation at the weekend

At the weekend, the network mainly faced difficulties caused by weather disruptions: they caused more than 33,000 minutes of delay in total.

In the Warsaw ACC, radar maintenance was expected to create up to 12,500 minutes of delay but thanks to good coordination in excluding flights from the area concerned, delays dropped to fewer than 1,000 minutes.

The so-called South West Axis saw high demand, which is typical for the spring-summer season as it deals with the major weekend traffic flows between north-western Europe and the Iberian peninsula.

Some capacity issues were registered in Bordeaux (LFBB), Brest (LFRR), London (EGTT) and Barcelona (LECB) ACCs for a total of over 40,000 minutes of delay.

ATC staffing issues had some impact in Lisbon (LPPC) due to insufficient sector configuration. More than 5,000 minutes of delay were recorded on Saturday 18 June.

In conclusion, last week was a busy one. The target of 0.5 minutes delay per flight was missed - it hit 2.05 minutes instead. Despite the many disruptions described, it was bad weather that was responsible for most of the delay.

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