In Texas, where we had a severe storm just last week, there is a renewed effort to use available low-altitude airspace, below 23,000 feet, to move additional flights away from the thunderstorm area.
We’re being more innovative in New York, too, as we ask airlines to leave lower altitudes for shorter flights and take higher altitudes for longer flights. We’re also moving some arrivals that come in from the west to the north, clearing up some departure airspace. And we worked with NavCanada and Mexico on some modifications that will help us on the highest impact days.
We have added a couple of positions that will help with traffic flow as well. In New York, we have a new route coordinator who can be focused just on route closures and openings and maximizing flow in challenging situations.
At the Command Center, we have a departure coordinator position who will be focused on just that – ensuring aircraft can depart so we don’t have unnecessary backups on the surface that would impede arrivals. Too many arrivals and too few departures can lead to near gridlock. We also have an arrival position that will focus on keeping a balanced throughput and avoiding lengthy recovery efforts, and an en route position that will maximize throughput and avoid sector overloads.
We are also focused across the workforce on training with new and existing tools such as our NAS Operations Dashboard (NOD), which will give our controllers and our partners a common platform to view various airspace challenges – like diversions, taxi times and throughput at multiple airports. We also plug our lessons learned into the PERTI process, which stands for Plan, Execute, Review, Train and Improve. We do a lot of planning before a big weather event, so we will stick to those plans and execute them well with slight tactical adjustments, rather than rethinking and starting over. Dedicated planners with supervisory experience will return during the severe weather season to execute the strategy they develop in advance.
We’re also meeting with airlines and other customers to review their business plans and expectations, as well as engage in tabletop exercises with their crisis action teams, in sessions that will help the entire workforce.
I am confident that with your dedication and extra vigilance, we’ll do a great job of mitigating risks and obstacles during this severe weather season.