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Sudden critical weather conditions at Nice Airport

5 avril 2016 (mis à jour le 4 juillet 2016) - Transports
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What are the most significant adverse weather situations occurring at Nice airport ?

The weather situations particularly affecting Nice airport would principally occur when runway 22 is in use. They would generally be linked to the specific topology of the airfield, mountains being so close to the coast line.

Visibility or cloud base issues are frequently observed when south west winds push a humid air mass toward the mountains, resulting in a thin but opaque cloud layer that gets trapped in Nice’s bay. Thus, the weather can be fair or even good in the vicinity of the airfield and airport accessibility yet at stake.

Besides, the stronger the wind, the more the air mass stagnates (and so do the clouds) between runway 22 thresholds and the MAPt (Missed Approach Points) of either VOR B/C or RNAV D approach procedure. Due to obstacles being so close the airfield and as no straight in approach procedures for rwy 22 can be considered, calculated ops minima are high and can sometimes turn out to be an issue. Indeed, these clouds may lead to either if not all of Nice’s approach procedures for runway 22 to be unavailable.

Approach Procedure Visibility MDA (Minimum Decision Altitude)
VOR B 8km 1500 ft
RNAV D 5km 1260 ft

May 1st 2015 was pretty critical in that regard as the airfield was forced to close to arrivals from 0847 am after 5 aircraft attempted to land and eventually went around because ops minima could not be reached on time.

 

Could such weather occurrence be anticipated ? What are the weather prediction possibilities available at Nice airport ?

Nice’s environment is one of its kind. Changes in the weather can be sudden, making its predictability challenging. To cope with this difficulty & alleviate its effects, the platform has a 24/7 met office and different measuring systems (such as ceilometers and transmissometers) with regular updated data transmissions to rely on. The met office releases updated METARs & TAF as well as regular observation reports. However, discrepancies between forecast and real time conditions may still show as specific weather occurrences affect the platform (sea mist, convection over the mountains, proximity of Le Var river, strong westerly winds,windshear phenomenon frequently reported, etc…)

Furthermore, the ICAO standards regarding METAR/TAF publication can lead the met office to publish observation reports “falsely optimistic” (clouds trapped in Nice’s bay thus located on the left hand base for RWY 22 may prevent from any approach on that runway and yet lead to an optimistic “SCT 1000ft” in the METAR/TAF, making real time situational awareness an issue.

Ongoing studies are being carried out by the French Met provider to integrate technical upgrades in terms of forecast & observation.

 

What about informing the airlines about these weather disruptions and their effects ?

The Nice A-CDM project has been officially launched and will participate in better information sharing in that regard. For the time being, airlines are encouraged to register and use dsna.fr website and its LFMM section for the most updated information.

As being informed is key to safe and transparent operations, the development of a tool to facilitate situational awareness between all involved actors is of utmost importance. Stand availability, current runway capacity, updated met forecast, airlines alternate preferences are useful information that should be shared by the entire community. DSNA is willing to participate in any future development & partnership to that regard.
 

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