How to prepare for a disruptive event

At a session on planning for the expected and unexpected at the Boeing Theatre, case studies on disruptive events showed how air navigation service providers (ANSPs) can improve the resiliency of their operations by planning ahead.

Although each crisis is different, there are some common themes that can be pulled out to help the industry as a whole.

Space launches are becoming commonplace in the United States, for example, with up to 180 expected in 2024. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has therefore become practised in handling them.

The FAA uses the information in the initial notification to evaluate the potential impact. If necessary, the date and time of a launch can be moved depending on the operational requirements. Once a launch date and time is agreed, a high-level airspace management plan is developed and disseminated so all relevant parties are aware of the disruption. The FAA coordinates the various activities and is also the tactical focal point on the day. Finally, it organises a post-event analysis and debrief to understand any lessons learned.

Meanwhile, Aerothai must deal with a regional major military exercise, known as COBRA GOLD. In 2023, this involved 27 nations and some 150 aircraft as well as ground and naval exercises.

Multi-stakeholder coordination spanning the strategic, pre-tactical and tactical phases is essential and last year resulted in four air traffic flow management solutions being deployed. Aerothai uses all available tools and procedures are constantly reviewed. Although this is an annual event, there can never be a cut and paste approach.

When Australia hosted the G20 summit in 2014, it had to deal with the arrival and departure of 27 Heads of Government. Moreover, the airspace above and surrounding the meeting had to be managed and watched extremely carefully. This meant the military was heavily involved and so two key positions were created – one civil, one military – that sat side by side to ensure seamless operations.

Finally, Japan Air Navigation Services shared the story of the 2011 Japanese earthquake that temporarily closed major airports, including Haneda and Narita in Tokyo.

Their key takeaway was the value of emergency exercises and being prepared for such an event. If an airspace or airport is prone to extreme events, these should never take an ANSP by surprise. The value of collaborative decision making and communication were also highlighted. It is essential to establish the relationships that will help an ANSP to maintain business continuity and enjoy a speedy recovery.

CANSO has published a document that covers these use cases and many more and extrapolates lessons learned and recommended practices.