The New Air-traffic Control System Seems to be Successful in Decreasing the Number of Delays to Half

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Published: 06th February 2017
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The introduction of a brand new air traffic control system is halving flight delays and flight delay claims and is poised to get rid of aerial gridlock. The biggest single cause of delays is strong headwinds, but this new technology ensures planes will be able to land even in the strongest of headwinds post effective and successful trials at Heathrow airport.

The system, worth 13 million UKP, is cutting edge pioneering air navigation technology and allows air traffic controllers to efficiently land airplanes with less delay between them by calculating how much space separates the two planes based on time instead of distance. NATS, one of the world's premier air traffic control firm, is in support of this system and the change it will have on flight delay rules. NATS is confident this new system will be supported by all airlines that see nearly half their flights being delayed last year. This new system should halve flight delay claims.

In the aviation industry, flights are kept apart by fixed distances, which are decided according to the aircraft type as well as the wake vortex created by each plane as flight takes place. While strong headwind conditions take place, aircrafts take a slower flight path over the ground measuring up to more time between the arrivals. Being forced to maintain set distances between one aircraft and the aircraft ahead of it can create a prominent knock-on effect to the capacity of airports, which results in cancellations and delays.

Heathrow's newly introduced time-based separation technique is looking to maintain landing rates while saving on over 80,000 delayed minutes each year. This new technique looks poised to halving the current delay numbers, while prominently slowing down the requirements for airlines to cut down on cancelled flights due to strong headwinds being the reason.

Quotes from NATS

According to Martin Rolfe, Director of Operations at NATS, the introduction of time based separation at Heathrow is a world first and aims to provide customers with huge benefits for both the airlines as well as Heathrow Airport. He believes the new system is poised to reduce delays and cancellations and at the same time improve airports methodologies for dealing with disruption. This is the reason NATS has chosen to accelerate the project bringing it to operational usage this year.

Three years of analysis of time based separation data was reflected in the Airports Commission's interim report last December. NATS's study included 100,000 flights which used state of the art equipment to effectively measure aircraft behaviour, which caused wake vortices during strong headwind conditions. The results of the study illustrated aircraft were being allowed to remain closer to each upon final descent into landing.

According to Rolfe, safety remains the NATS's number one priority and an immense amount of simulation has been carried out ensuring any changes to the technique is thorough and well planned. TBS deployment has started with a couple of partners using it through the European Commission's SESAR programme.

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