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PHL and Thunderstorms

Mon Aug 12, 2019 6:08 pm

How does PHL handle the infamous summer thunderstorms compared to the NYC area airports? Also, with PHL just about in the middle of NYC and WAS how does this affect their traffic in and out?
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Re: PHL and Thunderstorms

Mon Aug 12, 2019 6:32 pm

Everybody does what they can when thunderstorms arrive.

The East coast of the U.S. suffers from very restricted airspace and approach patterns, and when those are disrupted by a butterfly in the Amazon that changes the path of a thunderstorm to take aim at JFK, airline dispatchers pull out even more of their hair, as arrivals and departures slow down tremendously.

PHL, if I remember correctly, is the most affected if there are issues in the NYC area. Boston, being significantly east, handles a lot of the overload, but BOS can be just as affected. BWI and IAD handle a significant amount as well; however, if it is one of those storms that hits everyone equally, then every traveler that day across the U.S. will be affected in some way.

Sadly, redesigning the airspace has been discussed since jets first started plying the skies in 1959; however, very little (if anything at all!) has been done.
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Re: PHL and Thunderstorms

Mon Aug 12, 2019 6:41 pm

You can hope for an airport that's less fully scheduled, with fewer intersecting runways and greater runway separation, but if there's a ground stop there's nobody on the tarmac for fueling or bags - nobody's going anywhere.
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Re: PHL and Thunderstorms

Mon Aug 12, 2019 6:57 pm

They handle it by allowing you to push, then give you a major re-route while taxiing to the runway which then requires a gate return for more fuel. Not sure why they can’t just give it to you with your clearance and avoid the hassle. I asked once and was told “you don’t know how it works here.”
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Re: PHL and Thunderstorms

Mon Aug 12, 2019 7:05 pm

The Northeast US is so congested and relatively compact... in the midwest and far west there is room to detour around storms... not so in the east. So storm delays can occur even when the actual storms are over 100 miles away because the standard arrival and/or departure tracks might be affected. Each hub has its entry and departure "gates"... DCA, IAD, BWI, PHL, LGA, EWR, TEB, HPN, BDL, BOS. A place like BOS has more space for detours because arrivals and departures can be sent well to the north of the normal routing as there is generally sparse air traffic over ME, NH and VT.
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Re: PHL and Thunderstorms

Mon Aug 12, 2019 7:24 pm

A lot of it too depends on exacty where the line of storms is positioned and direction/speed of movement.
For example if there is a line of storms extending over western NY, western PA, down into Maryland/West Virginia, its entirely possible for there to be a ground stop for anything arriving from and departing to the west out toward Cleveland/Chicago but arrivals and departures from the Southeast may be completely unaffected.

As others have said the STARs are some segmented and compacted in and out of the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic regions there is not a lot of room to play with due to all the adjacent corridors.
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Re: PHL and Thunderstorms

Mon Aug 12, 2019 7:41 pm

Guess it's not looking good for me tomorrow afternoon then. I booked an AA flight to DFW connecting in CVG just to ride a S80 on last time. I hope I can get out of PHL in the afternoon.
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Re: PHL and Thunderstorms

Mon Aug 12, 2019 8:35 pm

I rode in two DL Mad Dogs last week, trust me, it’s not worth it.

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Re: PHL and Thunderstorms

Mon Aug 12, 2019 8:40 pm

Maybe not to you, but it is to me.
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Re: PHL and Thunderstorms

Mon Aug 12, 2019 9:03 pm

Ah PHL. Its an airport that one can love and hate at the same time. PHL is considered the bastard step-child of the NYC airspace.

The northeast is a very complicated/compact airspace that sees heavy traffic load from HPN, JFK, LGA, TEB, EWR, PHL, all in a very tight 250 NM radius. These airports have arrival/departure corridors that are very tight with each other that allows you traffic to get in/out of the airports I listed. Anytime weather affects any of these corridors, the air traffic management unit will shut down the route in and out of these corridors forcing reroutes to occur with the use of an alternate corridor. This is called the Serve Weather Avoidance Program initiative aka SWAP. Keep in mind, you can only fit so many airplanes each corridor, so as a result, delays start to occur. The more routes shut down, the worst the delays start to pile on.

Depending on where you are flying too, NY center even reroute you onto what is called a low altitude escape route. It essentially, a route that is flown at a low altitude until you get can get into a different center airspace that has the spacing/workload to accept you at a higher altitude or you may be at a low altitude until you get to your destination, depends how bad storms are affecting the northeast arrival/departure corridors.

In my experience, I fly through PHL a lot as my regional has a sizeable operation there. Any time I see SWAP initiatives in effect, I am usually trying to get the reroutes with clearance delivery and our company dispatcher taken care of before leaving the gate to avoid a return to gate for fuel as I've had to return to gate before for a crazy reroute. I've also operated an LGA-ORF flight using one of the escape routes at 6,000 the entire way.

Hopefully that answers your questions.
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Re: PHL and Thunderstorms

Mon Aug 12, 2019 10:07 pm

This thread title gave me nightmare flashbacks.
I made several business trips to PHL in 2011 when I lived in BZN. The return flight was always booked PHL-MSP-BZN, leaving PHL about 1700. On three consecutive trips, that departure to MSP was either delayed multiple hours or cancelled due to weather, forcing me to overnight in PHL. (I recall that the inbound aircraft at least twice was coming from JFK, which didn't help.) On my next trip to PHL, I just planned in advance, and purposely booked my return the following morning via a totally different routing. I took an avgeek-approved, backtracking itinerary PHL-DTW-SEA-BZN... and arrived home right on time! And I've never been back to PHL since then.

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