Aircraft to land closer together at Heathrow
Feb 7th, 2014 by elisa

Heathrow has been given the go-ahead to let aircraft land closer together in windy conditions.

The airport will be the first in the world to implement the new system, which is hoped to halve delays for arriving passengers. It said it will cut disruption for passengers by more than 1,300 hours each year.

From spring 2015 air traffic controllers will start to manage arriving flights using the amount of time between aircraft, rather than distance. The move follows the recommendation from the Airports Commission, which has been investigating ways in which to create extra capacity out of existing airports in the notoriously busy airports in southeast England.

Heathrow has been operating at 98% of its runway capacity for a decade. In normal conditions a flight takes off or lands every 45 seconds. During strong headwind conditions, however, aircraft fly more slowly, resulting in extra time between each arrival. Maintaining a set distance between aircraft in such conditions, means landing rates are reduced and flights are delayed, sometimes causing cancellations as the airport has no spare slots to accommodate for the delays.

Traditionally, flights are separated by set distances determined by each aircraft’s size of spiralling turbulence – or wake vortex – created as they fly. NATS studied over 100,000 flights using special equipment to accurately measure the behaviour of these wake vortices in strong headwinds. The results show that they dissipate more quickly when it’s windy, therefore allowing aircraft to land closer together in these conditions, while maintaining safety.

Director of airside operations Derek Provan said: “We’re pleased that NATS have accelerated the roll-out of this new system at Heathrow.

“It will help us keep the flights landing safely and on time during strong headwinds – ultimately benefitting passengers and local communities.”

Easyjet test ash-cloud technology
May 9th, 2013 by elisa

Easyjet is preparing for the final stages of testing its ash-detection technology, known as AVOID.

It has flown a tonne of volcanic ash from Iceland to then transport to an Airbus base in France later this summer. Together with its partners, Airbus and Nicarnica, the airline plans to carry out a major experiment to put the technology to the ultimate test.

An Airbus test plane will disperse the ash into the atmosphere at an unconfirmed location during the month of August. A second Airbus test aircraft, fitted with AVOID technology, will detect and avoid the artificial ash cloud at over 30,000ft.

The experiment will be timed to coincide with the alignment of the Seviri and Calypso satellites, so they can image the ash cloud from space. This will hopefully prove the accuracy and effectiveness of the technology, which uses infrared technology developed by the US military, to supply images to pilots and an airline’s operations control centre.

“The threat from Icelandic volcanoes continues and so finalising the approval of the AVOID technology is as crucial now as ever to ensure we never again see the scenes of spring 2010 when all flying ceased for several days,” said Ian Davies, Easyjet’s engineering director.

The images captured by AVOID will enable pilots to see an ash cloud up to 100km ahead of the aircraft at altitudes between 5,000ft and 50,000ft, and avoid it where possible.

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