The packing list for your early fall trip is simple – swimsuits, flip-flops, sunscreen and beach towel. You’re daydreaming about the chance to relax in the sun and unplug when your cell phone buzzes with a weather alert. A tropical storm is growing in the Atlantic and is expected to become a hurricane the day you are supposed to arrive at your tropical beach destination. How does this affect your travel plans?
Hurricane season runs in the Atlantic June 1 to Nov. 30. (The Eastern Pacific hurricane season starts a little earlier, running May 15 to Nov. 30.) Unfortunately, the path of a storm cannot be accurately predicted more than five to seven days out since weather patterns may change without much warning. As such, airlines have storm management plans and incorporate preparedness exercises into their training for a variety of situations that can impact air travel.
Airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) work together to ensure safe air travel and determine the best course of action. There are times when it is simply not safe to fly and airlines often will cancel flights in advance of significant weather events, so it can recover and return operations to normal more quickly when the storm passes.
To assist in the process of air traffic management and ongoing airline operations, A4A Director of Airline Operations Frank Oley represents our members at the FAA Air Traffic Control System Command Center (Command Center) in Warrenton, VA.
Frank gave us a little behind the scenes insight to what goes on in preparation for a major storm:
From our desk, we facilitate the flow of information between the carriers and the FAA. The carriers employ weather services of their own and have information similar to the FAA. All concerned parties participate in teleconferences to share and compare meteorological models and up-to-the minute information, working together to strive for operations with the least possible impact to the customer.
Information sharing between the FAA and airlines aids in the process of determining air traffic initiatives and provides a common situational awareness for all parties to make sound decisions based first and foremost on safety.