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Old 3rd Nov 2015, 11:21
  #3425 (permalink)  
Shed-on-a-Pole
 
Join Date: Sep 2002
Location: Manchester
Posts: 1,106
If an aircraft was holding because of weather at say Liverpool or Leeds but could not divert to Manchester due the "No Diversion" Notam, that would be thrown out the window by ATC as soon as the aircraft declared a fuel emergency. It would not then fly up to say Edinburgh. It would land at Manchester.
Yes, this is absolutely correct. But if an aircraft has to declare an emergency then a crisis situation has been created and it is incumbent on all parties to strive to avoid that happening. The problem in a mass-diversion scenario is that there isn't just one aircraft in the sky - there can be several holding simultaneously, all affected by the same conditions. If they were forced to hold until they needed to declare an emergency (hypothetically, as both crew and ATC would in reality do their utmost to avoid this) you could find several such emergency calls made in quick succession. They can't all land at once. Somebody gets to be last.

Does MAN (or any other airport) want this kind of publicity for the sake of a few hundred extra pounds in net revenue?
In a mass-diversion scenario safety, not bad PR, must be the only concern. If a mindset which places PR ahead of safety is creeping into the industry, the CAA needs to act. The extra revenue is no doubt welcomed by airports, but it has to be far down the list of considerations in this situation.

If MAN has a 'No Diversions' NOTAM in force then no flight would be filing MAN as an Alternate and hence not holding overhead whilst trying to find another airport willing to take them
This is not actually correct. It is true that MAN would not be filed as the alternate. However, the replacement flight-plan alternate would have been filed possibly several hours earlier. In reality, ATC or company ops would need to establish whether the preferred alternate itself still offers weather conditions which are not 'below limits', and whether, given the mass-diversion scenario, that airport could still physically accept additional diverted flights. The situation is dynamic. Many airports will specify an acceptable number of divs - a quota which can fill remarkably quickly when all the London gateways are out - and then say 'no more'. The policy actually is for the aircraft to continue holding (usually close to original intended destination) until an available alternate is identified, or else the risk would be setting course for an unavailable airport and having to turn back. Of course, what should actually happen is that whilst the aircraft is holding for its original destination, ops on the ground should be making the phonecalls in preparation for the possible diversion to follow.

Note that in the scenario outlined above - that which we encounter when fog blankets a large number of UK airports simultaneously - safety is absolutely paramount. What is actually worse: sitting on a remote stand fretting because a handling agent says they can't service your aircraft for two hours, or airborne holding indefinitely with your fuel reserves diminishing whilst a series of airports advise that they won't accept your flight? And remember the ATC safety angle too: whilst all these aircraft are being refused by airports, more flights are pitching up all the time and joining the hold. These aircraft need to be removed from the system ASAP to avoid the risk of ATC overloads. An ATC sector overload is a far bigger safety issue than a ground-handling delay.

Moving on to new ground, I reviewed MAN's daily movements late last night. Almost the entire FlyBe programme was cancelled, as were many KLM and BA flights plus afew others. Most of these were cancelled hours ahead of time. Which begs the question: what happened to the handling agents rostered to service those particular flights? Were they actually available for reassignment to alternative duties? Such as handling diverted flights?

Last edited by Shed-on-a-Pole; 3rd Nov 2015 at 11:34.
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