A Ground Stop (GS) is a traffic management initiative (TMI) requiring aircraft that meet specific criteria to remain on the ground at their origination airport. The GS may be airport specific, related to a geographical area, or equipment related. Ground stops are considered to be the most restrictive of the TMIs.

Ground stops are implemented when air traffic control is unable to safely accommodate additional aircraft in the system. They are most frequently used for:

  • Severely reduced capacity situations such as:
    • Weather below user arrival minima
    • Severe weather reducing usable routes
    • Major equipment outages
    • Catastrophic events
  • Precluding extended periods of airborne holding
  • Precluding sectors from reaching saturation levels
  • Precluding airports from reaching gridlock

When a ground stop is implemented, traffic managers must decide what flights will be captured in the stop. This refers to the scope of the ground stop. Scope can be defined by distance, by center, or by tier. See Scope of Traffic Management Initiatives (TMIs) for more information.

Along with scope information, a ground stop is always given an update time. This is the time at which the stop will be re-evaluated and either extended or cancelled. The update time is NOT an Expect Departure Clearance Time (EDCT), though they are sometimes described as such by some controllers, causing confusion. A good rule of thumb is that the terms “ground stop” and “EDCT” should never be used in the same sentence.

In many cases, it is not immediately clear how long a ground stop will be needed. So, in addition to the update time, each stop will be described as having a low, medium, or high possibility of extension (POE). This will be reflected on the FAA’s Operational Information System (OIS).

Ground stops are usually not planned well in advance – rather, they are used reactively as conditions warrant. They most commonly capture flights arriving at an airport from a relatively short distance, unless the reason for the stop is something traffic manager feel will continue for some time. In those cases, ground stops are usually replaced with a longer duration ground delay program (GDP).

Facilities may implement ground stops for up to 15 minutes without notifying the Air Traffic Control System Command Center (ATCSCC). A facility ground stop may not exceed 30 minutes. Once the delay is anticipated to reach 15 minutes or more, the ATCSCC is notified. If the ground stop is expected to continue, an advisory will be issued by the ATCSCC advising customers of the extension.

Ground stop information for delays of less than 15 minutes should be provided by the ATC facility. Stops with delays of 15 minutes or more are viewable on the OIS web page, under the header “Ground Stops.”