News

Taking a network-minded approach to bad weather is paying off

Airplane flying through clouds in severe weather.

Timing is of the essence
when taking weather-
based decisions.

The new initiative by the EUROCONTROL Network Manager (NM) to organise cross-border weather teleconferences allows participants not only to share information on weather conditions and weather events that have the potential to impact the network, but also to pool additional information in terms of capacity reductions, de-activation of military activities, and relaxation of airspace restrictions.

This is helping the EUROCONTROL NM to move flows of traffic as efficiently as possible, and ensuring maximum situational awareness for all users when significant adverse weather conditions have been identified that are set to affect multiple sectors.

Disruptive convective activities – clouds and resulting weather phenomena, such as showers, thunderstorms, squalls, hail, tornadoes – can impact large portions of airspace simultaneously. When bad weather hits multiple sectors and on a cross-border border basis, solutions taken in isolation or locally may prove inadequate.

For this reason – and in light of the very negative effect of bad weather on operations over summer 2018 – the EUROCONTROL NM has set up a procedure that defines roles and responsibilities for managing en-route weather, and takes a network-minded approach. As the only actor with a ‘helicopter view’ of the network, and extensive experience in managing network events with the right communications facilities – via the Network Operations Portal (NOP) portal and NM’s B2B web services – the EUROCONTROL NM is able to ensure that all stakeholders are kept in the loop, and collective decisions taken

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NOP

Network operations portal

NM B2B

Network Manager business-to-business web services

When NM identifies significant adverse weather conditions that are set to affect multiple sectors, our Network Manager Operations Centre (NMOC) organises a cross-border weather planning teleconference with affected stakeholders with the aim of analysing the met forecasts, defining a single-view forecast, and coordinating an action plan with operators, air navigation service providers (ANSPs) and airports, supported by met experts.

The goal is to define in advance coordinated protective measures, to avoid a situation whereby regulations put in place to protect sectors and controller workload duplicate each other, making it almost impossible for airlines to find re-routes in bad weather conditions.

Timing is of the essence when taking weather-based decisions: if applied at the last minute, protective measures risk being ineffective, as flights will already be airborne. This makes it even more difficult to maintain a clear picture of the operations across the network, resulting in over-deliveries of traffic for controllers, and greater than necessary delays for aircraft operators and passengers.

The teleconferences not only share information on weather conditions and weather events with the potential to impact the network, but also allow actors to pool additional information in terms of capacity reductions, de-activation of military activities, and relaxation of airspace restrictions (RAD), all with the aim of allowing the EUROCONTROL NM to move flows of traffic as efficiently as possible, and ensuring maximum situational awareness for all users.

So far this year, NM has organised multiple teleconferences to manage en-route weather since April 2019. The initiative, which has seen collaboration with five ANSPs (DFS Karlsruhe and Langen, NATS, DSNA Reims, Austro Control and MUAC) and Frankfurt Airport, has been welcomed by stakeholders, and is set to expand as traffic grows over the summer.

The new approach to managing significant bad weather is one of the EUROCONTROL NM "Seven Measures” initiative launched in October 2018 to address the shortcomings of the ATM network identified over summer 2018.

The weather predictions have improved and led to changes in the roster on the day of operation… that meant on some days where we would have regulated we actually had no regulations in place, so these cross-border weather teleconferences have had a positive effect,” to quote one of the participants.

Based on the success of these weather teleconferences, the EUROCONTROL NM plans to expand further their use, both geographically and procedurally, with the aim of taking a fully network-consistent approach to all major weather disruptions across the network.