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FNO Start Times

Roger Curtiss

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  • Board of Governors

When I was living in the Midwest, FNOs were very convenient to fly. Finish dinner and then head over to the computer to join the event.


Six years ago, I moved to the west coast. Since then it has become clear that FNOs are scheduled to cater to time zones east of mine. At 20:00 hrs local in the Pacific time zone, where our evening is ramping up, FNOs are winding down...even if they are being held in this area of the country.


I suppose it may come down to demographics, (going on the [Mod - Happy Thoughts]umiption that most participants are in more eastern time zones) but I also must wonder, if first of all that [Mod - Happy Thoughts]umption is true, and second, if it is, if it might not be a chicken/egg thing. Not that many pilots on the west coast are participating because the event is held too early in the evening for them.


It would be interesting to determine where most FNO pilots are based to test this hypothesis. I also question whether it would be worth experimenting on a few FNOs to have them run on the local time of where they are being held and see how that impacts participation.

Roger Curtiss


VP-Virtual Airlines & Special Ops




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That's a pretty good suggestion, Roger. Case in point new episodes of TV shows, most of the popular ones do two airings to get their prime-time coverage, one at prime-time on the east coast then again at that same time on the west coast. If we could have something similar, it might well increase turnout. Sure it might place a bit of a demand on the controllers, but it could be sorted out through a number of methods. Perhaps as you said have it roll across the country each week. 4 weeks in a month, 4 timezones in the US (plus AK and HI for 6), so do each FNO in a different timezone each week, but have it local to that timezone.

Brad Lee



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Friday Night Operations (FNO) is a VATUSA event, hosted by usually one, or sometimes more than one, of the 22 ARTCCs each week. Host ARTCCs are free to host the FNO during any time they like, although they have been given guidance around when the peak traffic times have historically been. I have observed FNO traffic levels several times over the past few years, and historically, most traffic occurs between 8:30pm and 11:30pm Eastern time, with the highest concentrations between 8:45 and 11:00pm Eastern time (regardless of the time zone of the airport/ARTCC that the FNO is hosted). VATUSA Event Coordinators have standing, published guidance that they should do their best to accommodate traffic past the "formal" end time of the FNO events to the best of their ability. And many are able. One recent example was the Minneapolis ARTCC that, although their FNO was published from 2300-0430Z, still had controllers on past 0600Z.


I don't often have to step in and suggest course deviations, but just as a recent example, as it's fresh in my mind, last night's FNO was held from 23-04Z (4-9pm PDT), though more than half of the controllers had logged off by 0315Z, as the traffic had died down significantly.


Interestingly, I had to step in and provide some guidance regarding peak traffic levels and make a recommendation recently, to a Western US ARTCC, that originally advertised their FNO to be from 22-01Z (3-6pm PDT!!!!!), which would have this FNO end before most FNOs started. When I initially challenged the ARTCC, suggesting that maybe this was a typo, they replied that it was NOT.... After further guidance and suggestion, the time was changed to 00-06Z (5-11pm PDT). I thought it more appropriate to have Friday Night Ops (FNO) at night, and not in the afternoon....


I also just looked back at the last several FNOs in the Western US to see the times that the ARTCC chose to run the FNO, and here are the results:

2200-0330Z (Honolulu)

2300-0400Z (Seattle)

2359-0400Z (Los Angeles)

2359-0400Z (Anchorage)

2359-0600Z (San Antonio)

2345-0500Z (Oakland)

2300-0400Z (Seattle/Oakland)


I do empathize, because although I live on the East Coast, work and family obligations mean that I generally can't get on until around 10pm Eastern, 7pm Pacific myself. I do try to encourage later FNO ending times specifically to accommodate the folks in the Western time zones (not to mention our members in Alaska and Hawaii!). My gut tells me that the times that the ARTCCs pick track the historically highest traffic times. I will post a link to this thread, a request for ARTCCs to consider hosting and staffing later FNOs, in the VATUSA Event Coordinator forum as well.

Don Desfosse
Vice President, Operations

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