News

Making operations more predictable during adverse weather

Airplane at an airport with storm in the background

New guidelines for airports developed by EUROCONTROL’s Operational Excellence Programme

Bad weather remains the main reason for air traffic flow management delay at European airports. To tackle this, EUROCONTROL together with a wide representation of operational stakeholders has developed 14 recommendations showing how airports can improve their operational response to adverse weather conditions.

By putting the report’s recommendations in place and ensuring full use of new meteorological (MET) products and digital decision support tools, operational stakeholders can increase predictability of operations and reduce costs at local and network level, which in turn improves the efficiency and sustainability of air traffic.

The report on “Collaborative Best Practices for Handling of Adverse Weather at European Aerodromes” is the first deliverable under the Operational Excellence Programme – one of the EUROCONTROL Network Manager’s cornerstone initiatives to improve network performance.

The Network Manager’s partnership with operational stakeholders is the key to the success of every network initiative. The recommendations we release today are a very tangible result of such close and successful cooperation. Our aim is now to reach the support of all operational stakeholders to drive forward real change to collectively better manage adverse weather at airports by taking a coordinated, collaborative network view.

The recommendations take existing best operational practices and aim to promote these common principles at a network level. The 14 recommendations developed by the “SMART Weather Task Force” have been produced in collaboration between the EUROCONTROL Network Manager and a wide representation of operational stakeholders, including airlines, airport operators, air navigation service providers and flow management position (FMP) and national MET service providers.

The SMART Weather Task Force identified 14 recommendations grouped in the following areas:

  • Develop tailor-made MET products and services, enabled by quantum enhancements in MET technologies and user-oriented MET innovation. Integrate MET advice in operations. Consistently interpret MET forecasts, explain them in operational language and reference specific operational threshold values.
  • Evolve the FMPs’ role towards a closer working relationship with airport stakeholders, in particular with the Airport Operations Centre (APOC); where an APOC has not been established, this should be with air traffic control towers and the Airport/Aircraft Duty Manager.
  • Integrate the aerodrome element into the existing NM cross-border procedure for en-route convective weather: include aerodrome weather phenomena; extend the procedure to year-round duration; and enlarge the coordination to the Airport/Aircraft Duty Manager and/or TWR ATC, as appropriate.
  • Go into adverse weather events in a controlled manner, with a plan to manage effectively the situation, based on “playbook” pre-agreed scenarios and ‘what-if’ assessments enabled by suitable software tools. The Task Force emphasised the benefit of establishing local collaborative cells and common situational awareness platforms such as an Airport Operations Plan.
  • Factor in fully the airspace users’ take on weather disruptions in terms of delays, diversions and cancellations. Airlines operate several transport models and react differently to adverse weather. A scheduled commercial airline, or a national carrier operating a “hub-and-spoke” network, may have a different take on diversions and pre-tactical flight cancellations compared to a charter airline that is owned by a tour operator.
  • Consider how digitalisation is transforming the airline business, such as decision-making support tools for operational and business prioritisation, and digital communication platforms for passengers. Take into account the implications of EU rules on air passenger rights (Regulation EU261/2004) on airlines’ business decisions and operational responses.

Next steps

To drive forward real change in the collaborative management of ATFM Weather Aerodrome regulations, the support of the recommendations as Guidance and Best Practice will be subject to the endorsement of the Airport Operations Team – the forum for consultation between all operational stakeholders on Network Airport activities – and the approval of the Network Directors of Operations Group (NDOP). In a second work package, starting in May, the technological enablers that support harmonising best practices will be identified, such as new MET products, Demand Capacity Balancing and Predictive & Modelling tools.

Background

The SMART Weather Task Force was set up to identify harmonised operational best practices that facilitate the handling of adverse weather in a collaborative manner whilst minimising the disruption to airport and network operations. The Task Force is part of the Airport Operations Team (AOT) work plan, working on “Harmonised Procedures for airports with similar operational environment” as part of the EUROCONTROL Network Manager’s Operational Excellence Programme. The Task Force is co-chaired by the EUROCONTROL NM’s Airports unit and A4E, the airline association.