Air Traffic Difficulties in Europe

[Ref. Flight International Magazine 14-20 Apr 2020]

One-third (1/3) of all air traffic management delays in Europe is due to Weather (WX)

Weather consistently generates up to one-third (1/3) of all air traffic management delays across the European network, according to the Eurocontrol Network Manager.

Weather events are becoming more unpredictable in their timing and intensity.

The climate change will probably mean less snow for western Europe, although meteorological experts still cannot guess just how the region’s typical fog, wind and rain patterns may evolve to become the “new normal”.

Guess What? The most significant impact of a thunderstorm is the fact that it will reduce the actual airspace – limiting the physical boundaries within which an aircraft can operate. During heavy thunderstorms, unplanned, ad hoc diversions into adjacent sectors will most probably lead to a concentration of traffic there, increasing congestion and therefore airspace complexity.

In some cases, regulations duplicated each other, meaning that flights could be subject to five or six different measures, making it almost impossible for them to be re-routed.

Moreover, there are very few ways of understanding how a forecast thunderstorm will develop, air traffic controllers are forced into reactive mode, their actions guided by the weather. To prevent controller workload from becoming excessive, operations also have to be regulated to maintain safety and it is this which leads to vital capacity being lost and recovery times being unnecessarily long.

Workload complexity increases too for pilots, reflected in the proliferation of radio exchanges, which also puts available frequencies under pressure, especially at an airport with a complex parallel runway system such as Frankfurt.

Add the fact that any electrical storm warning within 2.7nm (5km) of the major German airport will trigger a freeze on all ground handling operations, and the implications of worsening and persistent storms soon become clear.


WX causes 1/3 air traffic management delays in EU, the reasons behind are –

  1. Climate change and become more unpredictable
  2. Regulation flaws – reduce the re-route possibility

A typical example of WX phenomena is the Thunderstorm, which:

  1. reduce the actual airspace
  2. Increase ATC workload – ad hoc instructing flights to make diversions into adjacent sectors
  3. Increase Pilot workload – increase radio exchanges
  4. electrical storm warning near airport – have to freeze the ground OPS


Read More –

What’s “the most important Hub” in Europe?

With more direct routes than any other ­airport in the world, Frankfurt airport plays a critical role in connecting passengers travelling through Europe; it usually handles an average of 1,500 flights per day, more than any other international European airport.


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