Never Heard This Before

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Eugene

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Was listening to Norfolk (KORF) VA tower about 2230 EDT 2 days ago and heard the following: "Fed-Ex xxx Heavy, Washington center going 'ATC-0' in approximately 15 minutes so may not be able to get you guys out....still on phone with center so stand by" Then a few minutes later the controller came back on with: "Good news, I can get you out but you will be altitude restricted to 10,000 feet" The pilot accepted and was read his clearance. I didn't stay up to hear who he was handed off to when he took off, as they depart around 2330 or so and 0500 comes early.

I have never heard that before in all my years (and I've had a few) of listening. I know we have some controllers on here (Past and present) so anyone who can chime in....WTH is "going ATC-0"......possibly facility staffing cutbacks due to CoVID??? Thanks in advance.

Eugene KG4AVE
 

a417

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Hear it occasionally when the local tower goes off line.

Miss Wiki Pedia can be a real hussy at times, she doesn't even take a name when she takes your submissions. ;)
 

Eugene

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Well hindsight is always 20/20 I reckon. And now I know.....if indirectly. And yes a417, she sure is......like Mother Nature.

Eugene
 

ATCTech

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ATC zero means an ATC facility required on the route has closed it's airspace. ZNY ARTCC did that a month or so ago when a positive COVID-19 test result became known in the facility. The flight in question was being allowed to depart but would need to stay below the closed airspace, in this case 10,000'.

 
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a417

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After reading what @ATCTech posted, I'm confused why I thought I heard that when tower goes off line. That would be only sent for ARTCC center, not an airport tower correct?
 

ATCTech

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I would imagine it applies to any ATC facility be that IFR en route or TRACON/TCU in IFR or VFR operation that encompasses any combination of Class A through E airspace which suspends handling all traffic due to an unanticipated situation where the airspace assigned to that unit cannot be taken over by another facility and cannot be occupied by aircraft that are not under positive ATC surveillance and control. That's just my unofficial explanation of course.

A tower that operates 24/7 can also cause an ATC zero for that airport due to catastrophic failure, a staffing or environmental (evacuation/fire/flood/total power loss) situation as ATC is in charge of aircraft movements on the controlled maneuvering areas which include runways, taxiways and even aprons in some cases, in addition to landing and departure clearances and airborne traffic transiting the tower control zone.
 
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alcahuete

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ATCTech pretty much nailed it. But for the official break-down:

ATC-Alert is a precautionary notification to ensure Support Facilities in an OCP network are informed of a possible ATC-Limited or ATC-Zero declaration. ATC-Alerts are normally associated with, but not limited to, non-routine maintenance activities or equipment outages that eliminate backup equipment to critical systems and services. ATC-Alert declarations include (1) the condition that initiated the alert, (2) actions being taken, (3) potential impacts to air traffic, and (4) when an update is expected. 1. ATC-Alert is normally declared by the Impacted Facility. 2. ATC-Alert should be declared whenever the facility is within a single point of failure from being unable to provide published air traffic services in one or more operational segments. d. ATC-Limited is the OCL declared when a combined Tower/TRACON or multi-area Facility is unable to safely provide published air traffic services from one or more Options/Areas while others remain in operation.

ATC-Limited – OCL declared when a combined Tower/TRACON or multi-area facility is unable to safely provide published air traffic services from one or more Options/Areas while others remain in operation.

ATC-Zero – OCL declared when it is determined that the facility is unable to safely provide published air traffic services, or traffic flow management in the case of the ATCSCC.


So depending on the facility, other neighboring facilities might be able to take over from the ATC-Zero facility, in a very limited fashion. So if a center goes down, the neighboring centers and TRACONs take over the airspace per contingency plans. Same if a TRACON goes down, the center will attempt to take over the approach airspace. If a tower goes down, however, it's game over. Nobody can take that airspace, so it is generally treated as an uncontrolled airport, IFR services handled by the overlying TRACON or Center in a very limited one-in, one-out non-radar fashion.

We have seen this very recently with Midway, Las Vegas McCarran, LaGuardia, Salt Lake City airport, and a few others. The airline ramp controllers were still controlling the ramps and associated non-movement areas, but outside of that, the pilots were announcing their intentions on CTAF and doing their thing. At McCarran, for example, the Airport Arrival Rate was reduced to 6 aircraft per hour...so a plane landing every 10 minutes, instead of the usual 40-50+ per hour under normal circumstances.

Probably WAY more than you ever wanted to know, but there you have it. Ha ha! :D :D
 

Lynch_Christopher

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That particular day Washington Center went ATC ZERO for a deep clean due to a suspected case of COVID-19. It was during the overnight hours when the traffic count is lower.
 

Eugene

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Thanks ATCTech, Lynch_Christopher and nr2d......this is more along the lines of what I was looking for and what I suspected......just the first time I ever heard it. Sounds like this may be a more commonplace occurrence in the near future.

Eugene KG4AVE
 
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