Tracon controls the airport configuration and winds/weather are what drive the it. I believe PHX
is optimal on the west configuration but one of the problems they can run into is that they need 5000 feet for the freeway visual approach. If your ceiling drops below that and the ILS is needed things start to slow down.
Since I am not that familiar with PHX
I will use IAH
for an example. The optimal configuration for the airport is dept 15L/R and landing 26R/27. If, like today, the winds are out of the southwest 130 at 15 kts that gives us a tail wind on landing. I90 (IAH
Tracon) will turn the field around to an east config landing 8L
/09 and still dept 15L/R. It is not really dangerous since anyone on approach will land and the rest of the aircraft will be held and/or vectored around to the new approach fix. In the case of IAH
if the field is turned the depts are not usually effected but at PHX
they have to go from landing/departing west to landing/departing east so the aircraft on the ground have to be turned as well.
The other issue is the acceptance rate. IAH
on an optimal configuration is 88 aircraft and hour vs. today on the east configuration with 60 aircraft and hour. When the arrival rate drops you can get arrival delays in the form of airborne holding and/or ground stops. If it is going to be a prolonged event that will effect traffic over multiple hours then you can run into a ground delay program.
So field configuration plays an important role in the amount of flights that can both depart and land in any given hour. If they day is VFR-severe clear with calm winds you have no delays but if and afternoon thunderstorm parks right over the approach end of the runway or the winds pick up and shift forcing and the airport into a less than optimal configuration expect delays until he event dissipates..
Hope that helps..
Please oh please Mr Moderator Nazi, dont delete my thread.