April 10, 2013

In past years, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has often taken a “wait and see” approach on handling a severe weather avoidance plan (SWAP) event in the Northeast. Past practice has shown that when using this approach, when significant convective activity formed in and around the New York City metropolitan area, a high number of diversions and airline taxi backs occurred.

In 2011 and 2012, the average number of days when this scenario occurred was approximately 20 per season. An FAA and industry group, called the New York Action Team, was formed in late 2012 to discuss how to manage these “high impact” days for the upcoming 2013 SWAP season.

In the past, it has been common practice to allow more arrivals into the New York area than departures out of the region. This creates major issues as those arrivals deviate into the departure routes out of New York as well as cause gridlock on the airport surface at La Guardia, Kennedy and Newark Liberty airports. Previously, the main objective was to do everything possible to balance throughput of arrivals and departures at the New York City-area airports.

The plan this SWAP season is to implement traffic management initiatives (TMIs) earlier in the day for the “high impact” events in order to reduce the arrival demand, increasing the probability of getting more departures out of the New York metropolitan airports and reducing airborne holding, diversions and airline taxi backs.

For those days that convective weather is forecast in the Northeast, the FAA will use a three-tier system based upon the severity of the weather as well as the location of the convective activity. They will use “Level 1, 2 and 3,” with Level 3 being the scenario with the greatest impact to the system.

For the Level 3 events, the FAA will put in place several TMIs early in the day including airspace flow programs (AFPs), ground delay programs (GDPs), required and recommended routes into and out of the Northeast. These routes will likely include escape routes out of New York and Philadelphia.

The goal within the FAA and operator community is to identify these Level 3 events the day prior so FAA facilities and aircraft operators can expect the planned use of TMIs throughout the day.

What’s New for Severe Weather Avoidance Plan (SWAP) in the Northeast for 2013

  • Severity index for levels of SWAP Events (Level 1, 2 or 3)
  • ATCSCC New York Coordinator Position implemented at ATC Command Center during SWAP Level 3 events
  • Staffing the Tactical Route Coordinator (TRC) at New York TRACON during SWAP events
  • Proactive departure and arrival SWAP strategies
    • Very low rate Ground Delay Programs (GDP’s) for NY airports, possibly with Airport Arrival Rates between 15-22
    • Very low rate Airspace Flow Programs (AFPs)
    • Use of Integrated Collaborative Routing (ICR)
    • Reroute around New York Center (ZNY) airspace to provide better departure capacity
    • Reroutes off usable airways to reduce demand before they close
    • Recovery strategies to reuse routes in a more timely manner
    • “Required” use of Escape Playbooks (SERMN, PHYLER, etc)
  • Use of TFM Weather Portal
  • Revised procedures for the New York Hotline
  • Changes to the planning process and planning advisories
    • Establishing “Traffic Flow Priorities” for SWAP events
    • Detailed Information in the Planning Advisories
    • Requiring facilities to “Accept and favor rerouted traffic”

Short, High Impact Ground Delay Programs (GDPs)

Reducing arrivals for two hours at EWR, LGA and JFK (possibly HPN and TEB) using Low Rate Targeted Ground Delay Programs should:

  • Balance the arrivals and departures
  • Alleviate pressure on New York, Boston, Washington, and Cleveland Centers by removing 100-130 arrival flights out of the National Airspace System
  • Provide coherent and predictable routes for arrivals and departures in consideration of the unrecoverable capacity loss
  • Reduce the number of diversions
  • Reduce the amount of holding
  • Reduce the number of taxi-backs
  • Produce to a smooth recovery
  • Provide ATC and customer predictability
  • Accomplish more total flights at the end of the day, and if not, reduce adverse NAS impacts

As an aircraft operator, there are several steps you can take to help plan your operation in/out of the Northeast during a SWAP event. These include:

  • File your flight plan as early as possible so you are “known demand” to the system. Operators that file late increase their risk of additional delay.
  • Check the Required Reroutes web page to become aware of the routes available during the SWAP event. These can include low level escape routes as well as possible routes around an Airspace Flow Program. http://www.fly.faa.gov/ratreader/jsp/index.jsp
  • Check the FAA OIS (Operational Information System) web page which will advise the Terminals affected by Ground Delay Programs or Ground Stops as well as if there are any active Airspace Flow Programs. http://www.fly.faa.gov/ois/
  • Monitor the FAA Advisories web page which will contain detailed information on all Traffic Management Initiatives implemented in “real time”. In addition, an advisory will be published for the Operations Plans which occur every two hours beginning at 0715 EDT. The Operations Plan Advisories will indicate planned National Airspace Constraints and the initiatives on the table. http://www.fly.faa.gov/adv/advAdvisoryForm.jsp

Additional Resources

FAA Presentation to Teterboro Users Group on SWAP 2013 (1.0 MB, PDF)

FAA Presentation on New York Action Team SWAP 2013 changes (7.19 MB, PDF)