UK-based air traffic management company NATS has announced the launch of the Reduced Lateral Separation (RLAT) programme that reduces lateral spacing between aircraft flying over the North Atlantic.

RLAT is an International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) initiative which is being introduced by NATS and Canadian air navigation service provider Nav Canada.

As per the rules, currently the tracks are separated by one degree of latitude which is the same as 60nm.

"With RLAT we are essentially turning a dual carriage way into a three-lane motorway without expanding the current road infrastructure."

However, with the advances in aircraft design and air traffic management technologies the distance can be reduced to half a degree.

The North Atlantic is one of the busiest areas of oceanic airspace in the world, with aircraft following tracks that are set on a daily basis depending on the traffic demand and prevailing weather conditions.

The reduction in distance is expected to help aircraft achieve their optimum route and flight level, cut flying times, as well as reduce fuel burn and emissions.

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NATS Prestwick control centre operations director Alastair Muir said: "With RLAT we are essentially turning a dual carriage way into a three-lane motorway without expanding the current road infrastructure.

"It’s another great example of how NATS and Nav Canada are working collaboratively to bring about practical change that has a meaningful benefit for our airline customers as well as a positive impact on the environment."

Initially, one additional track is to be introduced which would result in creation of a three half degree separated routes for suitably equipped aircraft to fly.

However, NATS expects that the half a degree is expected to become the standard separation minimum across the organised track structure in November 2016.