London Gatwick airport, the second busiest in the UK, has completed construction of a new Rapid Exit Taxiway (RET) aiming to reduce delays by providing an easier exit point for pilots. 

The RET, which began construction in 2020 before a pause during the COVID-19 pandemic, will allow pilots who land just beyond the airport runway’s first exit to leave the runway earlier, avoiding the additional time needed to drive to the second taxiway exit. 

Gavin Sillitto, transformation programme lead, said: “For aircraft exiting the runway, it is like the speed of turning onto a motorway slip road rather than onto a suburban street. 

“Putting an exit in a place which is natural for how pilots normally brake, that can handle aircraft exiting safely at higher speeds, increasing resilience, reducing delays and limiting carbon and noise emissions.” 

Despite the drive to the second taxiway exit only taking an additional 20 seconds or more, the addition of the RET means air traffic control at the airport will be able to reduce overall delays by limiting go-arounds caused by an aircraft remaining on the runway longer than expected. 

Construction of the RET, which was adapted during the pandemic-led pause to reduce emissions for the project, was carried out alongside the 24-hour operations at the airport, meaning the site’s Northern Runway was used at times. 

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The RET, which was built by engineering and design company AtkinsRéalis alongside contractor PJ Hegarty, was used by more than half of all arrivals to the airport during its first four days of operation. 

Alongside the time saved by the opening of the project, Gatwick was also keen to highlight the possible reduction in emissions caused by the use of fewer go-arounds. 

The airport has been seeking to position itself as a leader on environmental issues, receiving a Level 4+ certification from the Airport Carbon Accreditation organisation last year in recognition of its work to achieve net zero by 2030.