Systems Operations Control (SOC) at our headquarters in St. Louis is in overdrive today as it prepares for much of our operation to be impacted by winter storm Jonas. Jonas, which forecasters predict will dump up to two feet of snow in places, is expected to hit the Eastern Seaboard and much of the South over the weekend. Proactive planning is key to minimizing the impact of Jonas on our customers—hundreds of flights have already been canceled in advance of the storm, giving travelers as much time as possible to make alternate plans and reducing the likelihood of passengers being stranded at airports over the weekend.
The Trans States SOC is also proactively planning for Jonas. Two of the key departments housed in the SOC are Crew Scheduling and Dispatch, both of which have been working overtime to ensure that crews and aircraft are moved away from the cities that are expected to be hit the hardest by this weather event. However, when making decisions about where to move crews and airplanes during the storm, the SOC must also think about where those crews and airplanes need to be after the storm. Once the weather has passed and the airports have re-opened, our customers are counting on our crews and aircraft being in place and ready to go.
Other proactive measures to weather the storm include having extra employees on hand to assist our schedulers and dispatchers, as well as additional phone lines and a dedicated email address to ensure that our crews can get the information they need over the weekend.
Once the storm has passed, it’s our priority to return to full operational strength as quickly as possible—and we’re going to do everything in our power to make that happen. “We’ve been working with our partners days in advance to come up with a game plan for the recovery of the operation,” said Elizabeth Bevenour, Manager of the Trans States SOC. “But due to the changing nature of Jonas, we’ve had to modify our plan multiple times. We’re constantly on our toes! But this is what we do best, and we have a great team in place to pull this off.”
Last year the Trans States SOC got into the holiday spirit with hot chocolate, an advent calendar, a personalized stocking for each SOC employee, and more. However, this year the SOC employees they decided that in addition to the in-office festivities, they also wanted to organize something that would allow Trans States employees to give back to the local community.
Each year the Toys for Tots program collects new, unwrapped toys during December and November, and distributes them as Christmas gifts to less fortunate children in the community. “When the Trans States SOC was looking for a charity to support this holiday season, Toys for Tots seemed like a great place to start,” said SOC Manager Elizabeth Bevenour.
Employees in the SOC work 7 days a week, with shifts going nearly around the clock, so SOC employees are often unable to participate in fundraisers that take place during regular office hours. The SOC set out a toy collection box for two weeks, making it easy for employees to drop off their donations, regardless of what shift they worked. “We collected approximately 100 toys this year, which I think is great for our first year,” says Dispatcher Tom Wagoner, who helped Elizabeth coordinate the event.
The SOC plans to make a Toys for Tots drive an annual holiday event, and also has other plans for giving back to the local community next year, including canned food drives and more.
For more information on the Toys for Tots program, please visit http://toysfortots.org.
Last month, the Trans States SOC moved from its cramped location on the third floor of the STC building to an expansive new location on the second floor. The SOC’s spacious new home now accommodates three departments, including Maintenance Control, Dispatch, and Scheduling. In addition to adding 20 workspaces that are distributed amongst its three departments, the new SOC location includes a break area, as well as six TV screens that show flight tracking, maintenance delays, weather updates, and rolling performance statistics. In the future, one of the screens will soon be used to as a scheduling board, allowing the scheduling team to see reserve availability at a glance.
“We’re all very excited to be in our new, modern space,” said SOC Manager Elizabeth Bevenour. “With all of the additional flying that we’ll be doing for United and American, the move into our larger space couldn’t have come at a better time.”
When visiting the new Trans States SOC for the first time, visitors inevitably ask, “What’s up with the blue lights?” Dark, and lit entirely by blue lighting, the new Trans States SOC looks like something straight from science fiction. However, strange as they may look, those blue lights are actually for the benefit of our SOC employees. Most SOC employees work from at least two computer screens, and studies have shown that blue lights increase productivity and eliminate eye strain from computer screens. Consequently, blue-lit SOCs are becoming more common at airlines. Most notably, Southwest recently completed a $30 million renovation of its NOC (Network Operation Center), complete with the blue lights.
Be sure to stop by the new SOC the next time you’re at the STC building. Elizabeth and her team would love to show you around!