July 14, 2014

As of the severe weather season of 2014, New York Center has changed the way it prefers flight operators to file their route during a New York severe weather avoidance plan (SWAP) event. In the past, New York Center (ZNY) has requested that operators file preferred or normal routes with the expectation that air traffic control (ATC) (via the New York Center PIT) would provide a reroute if necessary based on the location of the convective weather.

New York Center is now asking operators to file what they believe will be the most effective route for their particular fight utilizing in affect convective forecast products taking into consideration their business model and operational capabilities.


Encourage operators to leverage their own tools and own business models allowing timelier and more predictably access to the National Airspace System (NAS) during convective events (SWAP).


In the past, during SWAP events, ZNY has directed operators to file “normal” routes with the expectation that ZNY’s Departure PIT would correct bad flight plans and place flights on the most optimum route available at the time. The expectation is that the traffic management unit and the PIT would balance fix/airway demand and avoid known weather.

The New York/New Jersey area has six major airports competing for common entry points into the NAS, with the most complete and congested airspace in the country. Due to the close proximity of routes and complexities of approach operations, the PIT has the task of being a central clearing house and coordination point. The PIT is under the direct supervision of the New York Center Traffic Management Unit (TMU), which connects and directs activities to the rest of the NAS.

In the past, operator input was taken indirectly through other channels such as the command center and the SWAP hotline, then formulated into a common message and passed to ZNY in the form of advisories. The process is still necessary and active today. Normal routing also allows a swift recovery from a large reduction of airspace capacity accompanied with mass rerouting.  When the routes became available again the PIT does not have to reroute future flights back to normal routes, and this allows an expeditious return to normality.

Operators are the only parties that completely understand their business model. With the introduction of DOT3 and FAR 117, and continued rise of alternative models found in general aviation, individual company’s flight priorities and protected flight segments often are not in concert with the FAA. Even the relationships fostered between ZNY TMU and operators are stressed by time constraints during a SWAP event, and time cannot be dedicated to these types of needs.

Operators are aware of all these factors and often have creative solutions to meet their individual model goal. With this change to the SWAP guidance, ZNY is encouraging operators to balance route duration, fuel burn and schedule by filing a “non-normal route” they choose the path to achieve their objective. 

Breaking down the New York SWAP Statement

The New York SWAP Statement is an advisory that severe weather avoidance plans are expected for New York airspace departures. It will contain specific details regarding convective constraints. The advisory is published by the Air Traffic Control System Command Center. The following is a description of some of the canned wording found in the SWAP statement.

If no ATCSCC route advisories are in effect, customers are encouraged to file published coded departure routes (CDRs) or North American route program (NRP) procedures around known or forecasted weather.

  • First, follow any mandatory routes the command center has put out. They are the ultimate authority on how the NAS is utilized, and they have a pipeline for operator input and communicate with all facilities.
  • Second, when operators file an alternate route out of town (maybe a GREKI or a WAVEY) it should be a NY Coded Departure Route (CDR). This type of route choice dramatically increases the chances that the route will be accepted into the operational environment. It is not guaranteed to be issued to the operator, however, that will depend on the availability in and around ZNY.
  • Operators may also file a flight plan that conforms with NRP procedures if no CDR is present or viable to your flight.  These are more difficult for the ZNY PIT to validate, but if the operator’s market or departure gate is not served by a CDR, use that guidance. 

The following destinations should file the normal routes: ATL, CLT, MDW, ORD, DTW. ZNY/ARTSCC will provide alternate routes to these destinations.

  • The volume or complexities on these routes require multi-facility coordination and are not options for this program.  Follow the advisories. New York Center will provide alternate routes to these destinations.

Specific Questions Addressed by the New York Center Traffic Management Officer

Q: Should the operator cancel the initial flight plan and file a new one with the revised route or should they simply amend the route on the initial flight plan?

A: This answer depends on when the operator files the flight plan. If the operator is outside 50 minutes, they have the option to call ZNY flight data to cancel the first plan and refile a new route. They may do this more than once if needed, and should use automated methods when available. The PIT will not see a flight plan until inside 50 minutes. If the operator is inside 50 minutes, do not refile. The system has already started processing the light plan. To refile now requires a call to the TMU unit. Unless it is a high priority flight, let the system work.

Q: There was a fear that changing the filed route (by the operator) would push the operator to the “end of line.” Is this true with this new standard operating procedure?

A: ZNY can never guarantee a place in the lineup. Tower manages their surface. If operators follow the 50 minute or greater guidance above, this will never affect the place in the lineup.

Q: Please confirm if the operator should file either a published CDR route or an NRP route?

A: File an NRP route if no CDR is present or viable.

For More Information

For more information on flight planning during SWAP events, contact NBAA’s Air Traffic Services at airtraffic@nbaa.org.