Be prepared – for anything

Frankfurt, Germany -October 9, 2014: landing by night with a commercaial aircraft A320 at the airport of Frankfurt, Germany.

At any given moment, more than 10,000 aircraft are in the air carrying millions of air travelers across the globe. These flight activities serve to connect loved ones, transport tourists and businesspeople, move supply chains, and drive global economies. Any disruption to their operations can have far-reaching impact beyond aviation into other economic activities that depend upon it.

Yet, disruptions to the air transportation system inevitably occur, sometimes in the form of a planned event and other times as an unforeseen situation.

Take March 2011, for example. One fateful day in that month saw a magnitude 9.0 earthquake occur just off the coast of Japan. The earthquake, named The Great East Japan Earthquake, triggered a massive Tsunami that swept into the northeastern part of the country and disrupted air traffic management for hours; challenging the Japanese air navigation service provider to manage the situation.

Eleven years later, a different kind of challenge emerged during the State Funeral of Queen Elizabeth II in the United Kingdom. As part of the funeral procession, noise abatement requirement was enacted for air traffic arriving and departing London Heathrow International Airport requiring the British air navigation service provider to develop a precisely planned operation to minimize the flow of air traffic over the procession route.

These major disruptions are reminders of what we already know; that planned special events and unforeseen disruptions have been, and will continue to be, an inevitable part of the air transportation system. From major sporting events such as the National Football League (NFL) “Super Bowl” to multi-national State conferences such as the G20 Summit, and from planned airspace closure during airshows and joint military exercises to unplanned weather disruptions from earthquakes and typhoons, the potential impacts of these ATM system disruptions can be devastating. Careful planning and management can minimize the disruption.

ATM system resilience relies on ANSPs and their aviation stakeholders being able to anticipate these disruptions and proactively plan for them. Yet, therein lies the challenge, for the task of planning for special events and disruptions – for an ANSP without the experience – can be daunting. Fortunately, the ATM industry has gained a collective wealth of knowledge with many ANSPs and regional groups across the globe having successfully managed all types of special events and disruptions before.

Recognising the benefits of sharing this industry knowledge, the CANSO Air Traffic Flow Management and Airport Collaborative Decision-Making Workgroup (ATFM/A-CDM WG) set out to gather the knowledge from CANSO expert members with experience managing large-scale special events and disruptions over the years. The result is Planning for the Expected and Unexpected: A Special Event and Disruption Planning Reference for ANSPs (Volume 1). The document shares a series of case studies involving the planning for and the management of several types of special events and disruptions, including planned aerodrome and airspace closures, sporting and State events, and significant weather disruptions. The case studies bring with them key lessons learned that can be used by the readers as they prepare to face similar situations in the future.

Planning for the Expected and Unexpected is designed as a reference for ANSPs and regional groups to learn from as they plan for the special events and disruptions they will have to manage. While various events around the world will vary depending on the context and the environment in which they occur, and while there is certainly no one-size-fits-all global solution to managing them, the intention is for this document to serve as a starting point, giving readers key considerations to adapt for their needs.

As the world recovers from the global pandemic and returns to normal, disruptions to the ATM system will continue to occur. ANSP resilience through proactive readiness will be one of the key enablers ensuring that the ATM industry continues to function and serve the needs of the global public. The expectation is that this reference is another step towards ensuring that ATM resiliency globally.

You can read the new Planning for the Expected and Unexpected: A Special Event and Disruption Planning Reference for ANSPs (Volume 1) here.

About the Author

Sugoon “Kin” Fucharoen, Co-Chair, CANSO ATFM/A-CDM Workgroup & Executive ATM Network Officer, AEROTHAI, looks at the importance of ANSPs being prepared for every eventuality, expected or unexpected.

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