Here is the US (the Part 121 operators), the flight dispatchers on duty were pumping out ACARS messages to their flights left and right.
Keep in mind that ATC's first order of business is the separation of traffic. If a flight was headed from AAA to BBB, and (once the "ATC Zero" order came out to purge the airspace) ATC wanted the flight to go to XXX based upon its position relative to XXX at the time, that wasn't necessarily the right place to send it. XXX might not have been suitable based on the aircraft type, airport facilities, and other variables, and ATC's desire to have the flight at XXX didn't relieve the dispatch from his/her role in exercising operational control. Most of the places that ATC wanted flights to go to were indeed usuable, but in some cases they were not, and coordination took place between the dispatcher, PIC, and ATC to use YYY
instead of XXX.
As far as the type of info sent to the crews, I'm a believer in the more the better, since it usually eliminates the need for follow-up questions. If I had only one aircraft in the air, multiple Qs and As wouldn't be a problem, but when you have 10-20 in the air, you'd find yourself wasting time with alot of repetitive message traffic.
As an example, back when SWA1248 ran off at MDW
, I had 6 other flights headed to MDW
, and I told them all the same thing, i.e.,the full story: a company flight was off the end of 31C and in the street, it took out the localizer for 31C (so no approach to 31C), the weather was below minimums (with that ILS gone), that the airport was closed by the City until further notice, and to expect diversion instructions shortly. I also advised them that I had 6 flights headed there, and that I'd be diverting then in order of operational priority (desired diversion point, fuel state, customer service considerations, etc.) and that someone would be diversion #1 and someone would have to be diversion #6, and to keep ACARS/radio traffic to a minimum. Out of these 6, I gave new routes to the diversion point to about 3, as time permitted, but the other 3 coordinated with ATC for their new routes.
A similar situation (one generating the need for mass communications) occurred a few months ago when Los Angeles ARTCC in Palmdale had a power failure that wiped out their radar and radios. They went "ATC Zero" and were not taking handoffs from adjacent facilities. Once again, ACARS was used heavily to alert the crews to the problem (and that it was a power failure, and not something more ominous), and we ended up diverting scads of flights. The only ones I had were from the Pac NW
, (which transit LA
Center), but I did give them new routes that took them east, into Salt Lake and Denver ARTCCs, which kept them out of LA
ACARS is a great thing...
ALL views, opinions expressed are mine ONLY and are NOT representative of those shared by Southwest Airlines Co.