FNO Policy Change: 2021

Wesley Miles

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FNO Policy Change: 2021
« on: February 21, 2021, 11:22:02 AM »
VATUSA's premier event, Friday Night Operations, has continued to rise in popularity due to factors including the COVID-19 pandemic and the release of MSFS.  This spike in traffic has continued to result in airspace and airports saturated well beyond real-world capacity.  While this level of traffic can certainly be exciting for both pilots and controllers, experiencing this each and every week has been taking a toll on our members, staff, and even pilots (who often experience ground delays in excess of 60 minutes).

What the community sees on the "front" are lots of planes, ground delays, departure queues 15-30 planes long, delay/spacing vectors and speed restrictions, reroutes, and maybe some missed transmissions.  But, what they don't see behind the scenes is the countless hours spent planning and coordinating each event, the heavy staffing requirements needed from the host facility, neighboring facilities, and Command Center (an all-volunteer membership), and the amount of effort and skill involved in squeezing more planes into an area than the real-world National Airspace System can handle... each week.

This is only sustainable for so long, and as a division, we believe we've reached that limit.  For these reasons, Friday Night Ops will be changing in format and policy starting March 19, 2021, with a transition period that ends March 12.  Some big changes include the switch to a biweekly rotating schedule.  FNO will continue each week, but "hosted" FNOs (weeks that are bid by facilities) will occur every other week.  In between "hosted" weeks, VATUSA will have Light Up America, Open Mic Night, or other theme/area events to be determined.  Additionally, "hosted" weeks will require three or more ARTCCs to be featured, each with one or more airports.

One of the unfortunate results of this change is the requirement to rebid for FNO slots on this new rotating schedule.  We're under the clock for this bidding process, and it's going to happen quick.  Pre-bidding opens tomorrow February 22 to reserve dates for large/recurring events, and ends Friday February 26.  Events to pre-bid include the traditional/recurring FNO events hosted each year, live events, or those centered around real-world events such as FSExpo.  To submit reservations during pre-bid, send the event details, preferred date, and a quick reason/explanation for the reservation to your Region Manager.

Once we have all reserved dates from pre-bid, ARTCC staff will be notified of the available "hosted" weeks and bidding will start, administered by the ATMs/DATMs.  We do encourage facilities to coordinate and seek out 2 or more ARTCCs prior to bidding.

Friday Night Ops isn't going anywhere, it's just going to look a little different to better serve the pilot and controller communities.  Please see the attached notice for more information and the full policy.  Feel free to reach out to your managers or myself with questions.