To ensure everyone is aligned and aware of the network’s operational challenges, NM organises a weekly teleconference with the NDOP (Network Directors of Operations), which is also attended by ANSPs, airlines, airports, military and the European Commission. The enlarged NDOP teleconferences assess the last week’s operational situation and evaluate the areas to be addressed for the next 6 weeks. This includes the expected development of air traffic, the operational situation for a number of air traffic control centres, en-route sectors or airports for which further measures are proposed. In addition, this also includes European airport slot situation, demand/capacity imbalances, flight and passenger demand prediction, expected events with potential impact for en-route and airport operations, expected weather outlook, and so on.
We discuss on a daily basis with a large number of operational stakeholders to agree the detailed implementation actions proposed in the Rolling NOP and discussed during the enlarged NDOP teleconference. EUROCONTROL’s Network Manager Operations Centre (NMOC), in close cooperation with the NM ATFM Strategic Team, the RAD Team and the Airports Team, manages afterwards the operations in the network and enables the implementation of their part of the agreed actions.
NM staff carefully examine the information, raise awareness with other stakeholders that may be affected, and assist with advice on the strategic, pre-tactical and tactical planning of air traffic flows. July, for example, is already seeing NM shift some traffic from airspace with particular capacity issues to less congested areas, thus better balancing capacity and demand. EUROCONTROL coordinates these collaborative decision-making processes, which rely to a great extent on our unique data and tools. And we are always focused on tackling delays early or anticipating them in close collaboration with aviation stakeholders to find out as soon as possible what the constraints are, and to anticipate any capacity problems. Delays may start out as a local matter, but can quickly trigger a ripple effect throughout the network if not carefully managed.
All of our planning and coordination actors feed directly into our 24/7 operations service, the EUROCONTROL NMOC in Brussels. Working closely with fellow EUROCONTROL experts and in direct contact with operational counterparts across the network through B2B, B2C or via the telephone, the NMOC combines the expertise, knowledge and experience of operational network management to balance the available capacity in the network against the demand over a planned timeframe of D-6 to D-1, with a complete pre-tactical plan all the way through to D0. After the day of operations (D0), the critical part of our continuous improvement process starts on D+1, where ops experts take the feedback from the tactical (and preparations) day, share the learning points with new team members coming on shift, and feed back into the network for learning and even better support the next time similar situations arise.
The NMOC has dedicated positions for contact with airlines and airports, and these play a critical role in supporting other operational colleagues as they work each day to keep the network as stable and predictable as possible – including tackling fresh unexpected challenges of bad convective weather (thunderstorms) reducing sector capacities, loss of runways (normally due to unplanned maintenance), industrial action, lack of capacity not notified in advance, and many other issues besides. The NMOC also has a dedicated military cell which monitors specific military demand for airspace (a role that in the context of the war with Ukraine has only grown in importance), plans safe areas in which they can operate, and then releases the airspace as quickly as possible once the exercises have finished so it can be used once again to deliver additional, much-needed capacity for civil aviation.
All of the 30K+ flight plans filed every day across the network pass through the NMOC, dealing with re-routings to avoid delays and issues with incorrect planning, or restricted routes for example. In addition, and a critical element to the network, operational colleagues populate the roadmaps of the sky (airspace data) with all the information necessary to allow a structure to exist that coherently assembles all airspace from EUROCONTROL’s 41 Member States and 2 Comprehensive Agreement States as well as associated, adjoining and in some cases worldwide data.