So you've been slapped with an EDCT and panic starts to set in. You aren't being paranoid, they really are out to get you. Most of the time you are helpless but knowing what is going on can at least help you predict the duration. Some of the time, not often, you can fix things.
Everything here is from the references shown below, with a few comments in an alternate color.
Traffic Flow Management (TFM) is a collaborative process:
The delay can be caused by weather, volume, equipment, runway issues, aircraft accidents, special events, etc. Over 70% are caused by convective activity.
Knowing the weather at your departure point, en route, and destination can help you predict delays. The FAA is used the Collaborative Convective Forecast Product (CCFP), which you have access to: http://aviationweather.gov/products/ccfp/
They also use something called the Localized Aviation MOS Program (LAMP), and you can see that at: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/mdl/lamp/convection.php.
Delays, whatever the cause, are normally posted on the FAA's Operational Information System: http://www.fly.faa.gov/ois/
Manages traffic to a specific airport — only traffic TO the airport, departures are not impacted.
Can avoid by:
Can minimize the impact by filing your flight plan earlier — Up to 24 hours early — "Known Demand" has priority over "Pop ups."
Late filers are penalized by adding the average delay to the first available slot.
Manages traffic through a block of airspace and impacts all airports in that area. Takes a line, such as a center boundary, and manages traffic based on their arrival time at that line.
These are used at specific airports to institute an immediate reduction in demand for sudden weather changes, equipment outages, or other incidents. The FAA says they are normally short-term, one to two hours. All traffic is held at the point of departure.
You can look up your own EDCT: http://www.fly.faa.gov/edct/.
Some flight planning services, such as ARINCDirect, will automatically notify you if your flight plan becomes subject to an EDCT.
You can find the currently instituted restrictions at: http://www.fly.faa.gov/current_restrictions/jsp/index.jsp.
The FAA can advise you of a possible reroute but quite often you are just left waiting.
You can find alternate routes that the FAA will approve in the National Playbook, available here: http://www.fly.faa.gov/PLAYBOOK/pbindex.html.
Let's say, for example, you are trying to get from KBED to KBCT and it looks like the convective weather along the east coast might shut down all air traffic from north to south. You hope to get your normal routing so you file that:
KBED DCT PUT CCC GEDIC J174 DIW AR19 AYBID CAYSL3 KBCT
From hard experience, you know that if a delay kicks in, you could be stuck in the chocks for three or four hours. Wouldn't it be nice to have a hip pocket flight plan that gets you to your destination sooner?
The National Playbook includes possible solutions under "Regional Routes" and a point off the coast called AZEZU. Scrolling down under "ROUTE TO DESTINATION" you see the following:
Using the "add to route" function of your flight planning service, you come up with a new route:
KBED HNSCM8 SSOXS SEY BERGH L454 ATUGI M201 JENKS AR19 AYBID CAYSL3 KBCT
At the cost of just over 500 pounds of fuel and 13 minutes you could save three hours of APU time and fuel as well as get to your destination hours sooner. If you call your flight planning service and have them cancel the first flight plan and file the second, you could be on your way.
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