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Heathrow increases capacity with runway optimisation system


The world’s first Optimised Runway Delivery system has been implemented at London Heathrow airport.  The tool, known as “enhanced Time Based Separation” (eTBS), uses the latest data from the European Wake Vortex Re-classification (RECAT-EU) project to sequence both arrivals and departures.  It is predicted that the combination of RECAT and eTBS will increase tactical capacity at the airport by at least one arrival and one departure per hour. This will be used to enhance operational resilience, improving punctuality and reducing air holding.

Air traffic controllers in NATS’ Swanwick control centre and Heathrow’s ATC tower started using eTBS on March 16.  It aims at safely increasing airport capacity through a more precise means of evaluating aircraft wake turbulence, and the associated separation necessary on approach and take off.  It has also divided the current heavy and medium categories into two sub-categories and created a new super heavy group for the Airbus A380.  eTBS provides air traffic controllers with radar-based separation indications as aircraft slow down to landing speed.  The objective is to improve landing rates by measuring the time, rather than the distance, between aircraft.   This change reduces the distance between aircraft, enabling more to approach.  The tool also provide controllers with runway occupancy indications for pairs of arriving aircraft when that is more limiting than wake separation.  NATS says that the system will help lessen emissions, lower fuel costs, increase movements and reduce delays.

Juliet Kennedy, NATS Operations Director, said: “This enhanced version of TBS is a cornerstone of our new Intelligent Approach air traffic control IT suite, jointly developed by NATS and Leidos.  It builds on the success of TBS, which was first introduced for Heathrow in March 2015.  We are confident eTBS will increasingly enable faster recovery from adverse weather conditions, reduce overall delay, and help mitigate the increasing use of heavier aircraft types.”

Alison Bates, Head of Service Transformation & Performance at Heathrow Airport Limited, said: “eTBS has been a joint programme between Heathrow Airport and NATS and is a great example of the benefit of airport and air traffic control working together. It will help meet Heathrow’s flight punctuality goals – bringing noticeable benefits to the airport, airlines and passengers alike.”

Photo: NATS has implemented an enhanced Time Based Separation system at London Heathrow that will allow more take offs and landings per hour.  (NATS)

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