June 1, 2015

Forecasters predict the 2015 hurricane season will be much like those of 2013 and 2014 – relatively quiet.

Last year saw the fewest number of named storms since 1997 – only eight – and this year the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting a below-normal hurricane season with a 70 percent likelihood of six to 11 named storms. Of those, NOAA expects three to six could become hurricanes and zero to two could become major hurricanes.

Researchers at Colorado State University call for seven named storms and predict three will become hurricanes.

However, NBAA Air Traffic Services (ATS) Weather Specialist John Kosak said no should be complacent about hurricane season, in spite of the low number of predicted storms.

“If we’re expecting a storm, the FAA will likely stand up its Event Management Center (EMC),” Kosak said, referring to the facility that coordinates a number of federal, state and local agencies during and after a disaster or other significant aviation-related event. When the EMC becomes operational, NBAA’s ATS personnel begin sending out storm-related airspace alerts, and closely monitor EMC activities in order to keep NBAA Members informed.

The EMC conducts morning and evening teleconferences. After each one, NBAA ATS personnel draft an NBAA Airspace/Airport Alerts email to Members, briefing them on a range of issues pertinent to the event. Included in those email bulletins are notes from the National Hurricane Center that feature the latest predictions on a storm’s track and strength, as well as FAA actions that could affect air traffic in and around the immediate storm zone.

“I encourage all NBAA Member operators to subscribe to NBAA Airspace/Airport Alerts before we enter prime hurricane season” Kosak said.

“We’ll include information on any airports or facilities where FAA personnel have been evacuated and are therefore considered ‘ATC Zero,’” he added. “The important thing to remember is that these storms are huge, and damaging winds can reach out more than 100 miles from the center of the storm. So the information we put that in the Airspace/Airport Alerts reflects that as well.”

In the case of a major storm, NBAA may create a page on the Association’s website, make extensive use of social media, or use other techniques to notify the business aviation community when new information is available.

Best practices in the face of tropical storms and hurricanes include staying in close contact with FBOs at the affected airport(s) and keeping close tabs on notices to airmen issued in the affected areas.

One last piece of advice from Kosak: be patient.

“If the FAA has to move people out of the storm’s path, it will take time to get them back,” he said. “If there is [airport or ATC facility] damage, it will take time to repair it. It could take hours, days or even weeks after a storm to get things back to normal again.”