Effectively Plan For Irregular Ops

How the C³ methodology in ACRP Report 65 can help airports improve passenger service in any situation


Both the model plan and guidebook are scalable to relate to large, medium, and small airports. They are also flexible to support airports in either improving their existing IROPS contingency plans or creating a completely new plan. To ensure its scalability and flexibility, Report 65 was tested on five airports of varying size. Lessons learned from these airports were then incorporated into the final draft of Report 65 before it was released.

The guidebook demonstrates how a local IROPS committee can be used to leverage executive buy-in from service providers who may not be on board with the recommended C3 process. Chapter One – Executive Buy-in/Get Organized describes how a cross-sectional committee provides a nonthreatening environment for starting a dialogue between various local service providers.

“We had an initial plan in place when we began looking at Report 65, but we found it easy to use the tools and model plan to form our local IROPS committee and refine our tarmac delay contingency plan by the spring [DOT] deadline,” relates Brian Thompson, operations manager at Rochester International Airport. “The guidebook demonstrated the critical role each individual plays in delay and diversion situations, and showed us how important it is to work together effectively with so many different parties.”

Airports that already have contingency plans in place are offered methods for exposing gaps in current operating procedures related to IROPS response. In Chapter Two – Document Current Situation, exercises like a self-assessment questionnaire and checklists for evaluating current plans can identify where C3 solutions can be implemented. For instance, these tools can detect where passengers, especially those with special needs, require additional accommodations both in terminals and off site at hotels during events lasting more than 24 hours.

Cost-effective solutions for airports are provided in Chapter Three – Establish Procedures to Cooperate. Airports are provided sample agreements to use with airlines, the FAA, CBP, TSA, concessions, and ground transportation for sharing resources with one another. These can include flight status communication for reliever airports so they can meet the needs of incoming passengers and aircraft. In addition, its synopsis of technology considerations is focused on ways C3 can be generated or improved upon during IROPS events at varying economic levels.

In Chapter Four – Review, Update, and Training for Plan Implementation, airport IROPS committee members are given tips on how to update plans and train personnel once their contingency plans have been developed and approved. “Table top” training, or exercises that are accomplished across the table from one another using the C3 process, enable participants to practice communicating how they would handle real-life IROPS situations, such as appropriately staffing and stocking concessions to handle extra passengers.

Methods for developing shared situational awareness are highlighted in Chapter Five – Consolidated Cooperation During an Event. In addition to tracking aircraft and weather patterns, the guidebook recommends initiating C3 protocols with concessions, ground transportation, government agencies, and reliever airports to evaluate the situation and anticipate needs. These needs can include the ability of a terminal to accommodate passengers and the number of gates available to meet aircraft delayed or diverted there.

To achieve continuous improvement, in Chapter Six – Capture Lessons Learned and Updating Plans, the local IROPS committee is tasked with ensuring C3 continues after each IROPS event occurs through a debriefing process. This focus on regular updates ensures contingency plans evolve with changing regulations, conditions, and passenger needs.

Improving Customer Service

Once Report 65 was published, the FAA not only endorsed it, but also requested that it be disseminated through regional training sessions. ACRP staff members, in conjunction with the FAA, chose hub airports across the country to host these sessions based on their proximity to congested airspace and unique climate conditions. These airports were located in areas around Washington (D.C.), Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Atlanta, Orlando, and Phoenix.

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