Aug. 17, 2016
In the summer of 2000, the FAA was facing some of the worst air traffic system delays in the agency’s history. To address those delays, agency officials asked aviation industry leaders for their help in developing effective solutions.
The result of those discussions was a successful exercise in collaborative decision-making in which NBAA was invited to staff representatives at the FAA ATC System Command Center (ATCSCC), just like the association representing the airlines was doing.
It has been 15 years since NBAA Air Traffic Services (ATS), then called the GA Desk, became operational at the command center. Bob Lamond, NBAA’s director, air traffic services and infrastructure, saw the opportunity as one the industry couldn’t afford to miss.
“Having just retired from the United State Air Force, I was familiar with the ATCSCC as the agency I retired from controlled the DoD NOTAM office that was part of the ATCSCC,” Lamond said. “I knew there was a place for business aviation, and leveraged my knowledge of the function of the ATCSCC to sell the idea of business aviation having a ‘seat at the table.’ ”
Before NBAA’s ATS became operational, the FAA had a good handle on anticipated airline flight activity because the carriers published flight schedules and pre-loaded flight plans. But officials had little idea about what business aviation traffic might be like on any given day.
That information gap now has been filled as hundreds of business aircraft operators now regularly communicate their flight information in advance to the FAA and the ATS team, giving FAA traffic-flow managers a better picture of total system demand on a weekly, daily and hourly basis.
Members of NBAA’s ATS team at the command center engage in ongoing collaborative planning and information sharing with the ATCSCC staff. On a typical day, the center holds conference calls with all the major ATC facilities and customer stakeholders, sharing information on nationwide air traffic flows, weather problems, delays affecting aircraft being controlled by different ATC centers, airport-specific problems that may contribute to delayed takeoffs or landings and airspace restrictions imposed for a variety of reasons.
Those calls can last from a few minutes to more than an hour on challenging days, when widespread convective activity or other issues require re-routing traffic or instituting ground holds to restrict the number of aircraft in congested airspace. At peak periods, as many as 6,000 aircraft may be flying in U.S. airspace.
In addition to ensuring equitable access to airports and airspace in the daily management of the National Airspace System for all NBAA members, the participation of NBAA ATS specialists provides a host of time-saving services to business aircraft operators who sign up with NBAA on a subscription basis.
Advanced, detailed information from the command center enables subscriber operators to make informed flight planning decisions that minimize potential ATC, weather and other delays. ATS specialists also can suggest alternative routings so that business aircraft can avoid bottlenecks in the system.
“ATS subscribers receive the most immediate, tangible benefit from our presence at ATCSCC, but the business aviation community as a whole benefits from our engagement at this level,” said Lamond.