Preparing the network to weather any storms in 2020

Airplane flying through a lightning storm

Weather consistently generates around a third of all air traffic management (ATM) delay in the European network, with weather-related problems increasing in recent years – which is why the EUROCONTROL Network Manager (NM) is working hard with all actors to find practical solutions.

To keep the negative aspects of bad weather from affecting the busy summer period, NM held its first big cross-border weather meeting of the year on 6 February, discussing with 30 representatives from air navigation service providers, meteorological services and airlines the major issues to be tackled, and coming up with concrete ideas for handling bad weather better this summer.

The meeting, which was attended by aircraft operators for the first time, concentrated on three key objectives.

First, for NM to expand the geographical scope of its weather-related procedures eastwards and westwards, to make sure that those States whose capacity is badly affected by adverse weather can react more promptly and recover more quickly.

Second, to enhance pre-tactical and tactical procedures. Feedback from our stakeholders has been consistent: NM does a great job on pre-tactical planning – but we still need a complete network-wide view of what is happening on the weather front. NM will continue with pre-tactical conferences, redeploy staff and involve military partners more. However, we expect that the most help will come from our new partnership with EUMETNET. They will not replace national met. services but will give all actors a network-wide forecast. We plan to use their Nowcasting service and will take their data to prepare visual representations of what the weather is doing. We hope to have a EUMETNET position in the Ops Room.

Third, to improve the application of regulations. We would like to improve the lead time for weather-related regulations, which would ideally be published two to three hours ahead, rather than at the last minute – which can cause disproportionate delays, potentially create safety risks, and introduce inefficiency (weather-based regulations often risk making matters worse, as many aircraft are already airborne or locked into the departure sequence).

Eliminating duplicate regulations will also remove volatility: all too often, regulations are published in haste, modified and then modified again, subjecting flights to several different measures and making rerouting extremely difficult. Properly planned regulations, on the other hand, reduce uncertainty and improve predictability.

Overall, the EUROCONTROL NM aims to manage better adverse weather across the network with the cooperation of all the network’s key players. This will not only reduce delay, but will also help the network operate more smoothly, and more predictably.

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