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File Early to Reduce Delays
It is commonly known that once significant weather begins to impact the National Airspace System (NAS), air traffic delays are going to follow close behind. What is not commonly known is that operators can help mitigate the effects of those delays.
Perhaps the simplest and most effective way for operators to do this is to make sure that their flight plans are filed well in advance. As the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) develops more air traffic control (ATC) tools to minimize delays, the need for flightcrews to file timely and accurate flight plans is becoming more important.
Two of the most common forms of traffic management initiatives (TMIs) used by ATC are ground delay programs (GDPs) and airspace flow programs (AFPs). Both of these TMIs are now being run in what is called Unified Delay Program (UDP) mode. In UDP mode, flight plans that appear in the FAA’s Traffic Flow Management System (TFMS) after the program has been initiated, referred to by FAA as “latefilers“ or “pop-ups,“ are likely to be assigned additional delays over those that were in the system earlier (referred to as “known demand“). These additional delays can be excessive, depending on the specifics of the program.
FAA traffic management specialists monitor the volume of traffic to specific airports throughout the day. These specialists rely on having accurate data in order to make decisions regarding what TMIs to use and what parameters to set. This is another reason why having “known demand“ is so important.
Due to the need for flights to show up as “known demand,“ the flight planning practices utilized by business aircraft operators are becoming increasingly important. For some fractional and charter operators, this is not usually an issue, since many of these operators have schedulers/dispatchers filing their flight plans well in advance and actively monitoring their flights.
The problem is more common when pilots file the flight plans themselves. In many cases, flightcrews are distracted by other pre-flight responsibilities, and might not think about filing their flight plans until two or three hours before the flight. If flightcrews can develop the habit of filing their flight plans the night before, they can, in many cases, dramatically reduce delays associated with TMIs.
In many cases, trips are truly last-minute in nature, and the flight plan must be filed at a moment’s notice. In these instances, the goal of NBAA’s General Aviation (GA) Desk is to ensure that the delay penalty is minimized. GA Desk specialists, who are located at the FAA’s Air Traffic Control System Command Center, monitor TMIs as they are implemented to ensure that reasonable accommodation can be made for these flights through the use of reserve slots. The GA Desk staff makes sure that the correct reserve-slot factor is issued with the TMI, but these are still issued on a first-come, first-served basis for pop-up flights.
In the coming years, the use of UDPs and other TMIs will continue to increase. If business aircraft operators can be smart in the way they file their flight plans, they can mitigate the effect that these programs will have on their flights.
LAMP Helps Identify Convective Weather Well in Advance
Operators who want to get a better picture of convective weather and its effects on air traffic should utilize the Localized Aviation MOS Product (LAMP), a computer-based product derived from model output statistics (MOS), along with the Collaborative Convective Forecast Product (CCFP).
The LAMP is issued every hour. It covers a 24-hour period, which is significantly more than what is covered in the CCFP, which only has forecasts for the two-, four- and six-hour periods and is only issued every other hour. Depending on whether it is an odd hour or an even hour, the LAMP forecasts cover two hours for the first five to- six hours. Beyond that, they still cover two hours, but at two-hour intervals out through the 24-hour mark. As a result, LAMP users can look through the entire day and into the overnight with the LAMP, even first thing in the morning. Later in the day, operators can even get an idea of how the following day is likely to progress.
If flightcrews can develop the habit of filing their flight plans the night before, they can, in many cases, dramatically reduce delays associated with TMIs.
The left side of the LAMP screen has the probabilistic forecast, which gives users a visual representation of the percentage chance of convective activity in an area. A colored graph at the top of the page helps with the visual cues. It is important to remember that this is not supposed to be what the radar picture would look like at that time. Another important piece of information is that when a yellow area is seen, indicating an almost 40 percent probability of convective activity more than 12 hours in the future, chances are good that such activity will occur. Likewise, if a certain area early in the day is light green, that represents up to a 20 percent chance of convective activity, which means it is likely that storms might not develop or could be very isolated or scattered in nature.
The right side of the page shows the deterministic forecast, also known as the “yes/no“ forecast. However, to make the forecasting even clearer, they have divided the “yes“ category into three levels: low, medium and high.
Once again, when those looking at a forecast for more than 12 hours in the future see an area identified with a “high“ color (dark red), chances are good that some convective activity will develop in that area.
LAMP is a powerful tool that enables schedulers, dispatchers or pilots to see into the future and plan around any inconvenient convective weather.
For More Information
Navigator is a biannual department contributed by NBAA’s General Aviation (GA) Desk. Based on the control room floor of the FAA Air Traffic Control System Command Center, GA Desk specialists act as business aviation representatives as they participate in real-time national airspace flow control and decision making. Learn more at www.nbaa.org/gadesk.