With all the excitement over Sandy ramping up, the National Airspace System on the East Coast has become oddly quiet. With this large storm slowly making landfall, air traffic within the New England area is eerily quiet, with all three NY area airports (LGA, JFK, and EWR), as well as DCA, BWI, and PHL grounding in and outbound air traffic until at least early Tuesday. BOS may join this list later today, and other airports further from the storm, such as ATL, have already implemented ground delay programs as well.
Shown in the graphics below are loops of visible satellite imagery overlaid with ASDI flight routes yesterday morning when operations were still running normally overall (top) compared with flight routes this morning (bottom). Note the significant amount of empty airspace within the Golden Triangle, an area in which air traffic is typically the busiest in the country. Thus far, the current number is upwards of 13,500 flights cancelled, the majority of which are due to Sandy. Estimating 100 people per plane, that is 1,350,000 passengers affected!
This eerie absence of flights in the Northeast is being felt throughout the entire nation, and even worldwide as a number of international flights are stranded abroad. It is a ripple effect caused by displacement of both planes and crews at various airports. For example, a flight from JFK to ORD may then go on to LAX, so if it is stranded in JFK, the LAX flight will be subsequently affected. Additionally, if the flight crew are also stranded, those flights they were meant to move on to once in ORD will then be short personnel, causing further delays as replacements are required. While ground stops are scheduled to be lifted early Tuesday, it will take quite some time before airspace operations have completely returned to normal.
In an effort to avoid as much displacement as possible, a number of airports in the Northeast got as many airplanes out of the area as possible before the storm hit. However, even with these preparations, this will not come cheap to the airlines as they have been waiving fees and refunding tickets for those cancelled flights and are also responsible for putting stranded flight crews up in hotels until the storm passes. Delta Airlines, in particular, has hubs in LGA, JFK, and ATL, with many flights also in and out of DCA and BOS.
Here at the AWC (under gorgeous, sunny skies I might add), the extent of this very large storm is easily seen through our satellite imagery. The focus now has shifted to providing accurate forecasts for the next few days so that aviation operations can slowly return to normal.