The U.S. National Weather Service has introduced a new product that could help business aircraft operators better deal with potential air traffic control delays caused by thunderstorms, according to the National Business Aviation Assn.
The Traffic Flow Management Convective Forecast was designed to provide controllers with an accurate, high-confidence forecast, NBAA’s May 5 Business Aviation Insider said. The goal is to help controllers identify constraints throughout the U.S. airspace system in a timely fashion and allow them to implement necessary traffic management initiatives more quickly.
While the Traffic Flow Management Convective Forecast is not a flight-planning tool, NBAA said, operators can use it to anticipate where thunderstorm activity may impact air traffic flows in the U.S. and where traffic management initiatives might be implemented.
This greater detail included in the new product (whose forecasts are issued every two hours, seven days a week) provides a better picture of likely convective weather trends. So by understanding and studying these forecasts, NBAA said, operators can get a better idea of how air traffic managers may deal with thunderstorms. Armed with that knowledge, business aircraft can avoid airspace system constraints that the FAA may impose.
For example, the association said, sparse convective coverage in the U.S. may indicate summer “popcorn” storms, which tend to occur throughout a given area, but not along a specific line or frontal boundary. Depending on the location of this coverage, traffic managers may allow en route controllers to manage deviations tactically by adding a few more miles-in-trail between aircraft.
However, if the sparse area is large and within Washington, Cleveland or New York Center, airspace flow programs may be used to slow down large amounts of traffic by assigning expected departure clearance times, NBAA said. More coverage might warrant a significant route structure to help manage the traffic out of the constrained areas, especially when large metroplexes are on one side of a line or large area of medium coverage.