February 5, 2010

Ahhh, Chop.

It is always amazing how a night full of bad rides gives me more of a headache than anything else. That headache also seems to spur memory loss of the last time the rides were really bad. I keep forgetting....

The winds aloft the past few days have been screaming out of the west at over 200knots. Wind like that is never smooth. So everyone was down below FL290 burning lots of gas but enjoying the relatively smooth air that was only blowing at 120 knots.

During the early afternoon, planes hadn't taken the high wind/turbulence reports seriously (until a few reported severe turbulence at FL360), and were constantly asking if their bumpy ride would continue westbound. Every single plane checks in with a "how's the ride?"

"callsign, Boston Center, Light chop FL300 to FL340, light to moderate or even worse above FL350"
"How's 380?"
"oh, how about 280"
"Mostly smooth."
"Ok, we'll get back to you," as they decide if they have enough fuel to descend into thicker air for the long haul to the west coast.

70 airplanes later...I have a headache.

Eventually, all the planes just plan on staying below FL280 until they get west of BUF. I gladly take this over the previous situation where everyone was spread out at different altitudes complaining. I tell myself I'd much rather have everyone happy at their smooth altitude keeping quiet, in confliction with 5 other planes also stopped below the chop, at a few altitudes. I'll happily vector all day long, criss-crossing west and soutbound flights over SYR. Granted, I wouldn't say that if I lost my frequencies or my radar, but I take things like that for granted on days like this.

By the evening, the worst of the turbulence had moved east of the BOS area, and my airspace was mostly smooth at all altitudes. However, the airlines still were dispatching their airplanes with enough fuel to make it out west at the lower altitudes based on the old turbulence reports, and so, climbing to a higher fuel effecient altitude would actually leave many airplanes overweight at their destination. So, well into the night, airliners were still stuck in the lower flight levels, making life fun for the low altitude sectors that don't normally work those flights.

I won't even discuss how the huge winds ruined my attempt at IAD spacing....

Hopefully this will segment into my post-in-development about NRP as a follow up to the VOR post.

Till then....



Frank Van Haste said...


Re: "I wouldn't say that if I lost my frequencies or my radar, but I take things like that for granted on days like this."

Ooooh, you're gonna give Don Brown a coronary with talk like that. :-)


Frank [on AmTrak tonight for the trip to DC :-( ]

deltamike172 said...

haha Frank. Luckily for Don I was being mostly sarcastic :)

Enjoy the train! I took it down to NYC last weekend.