NATS has launched the world’s first fully systemised Optimised Runway Delivery (ORD) Tool to improve efficient and time management at London’s Heathrow Airport.
The too, known as enhanced Time-Based Separation (eTBS), aims to improve landings in adverse headwinds by measuring the time, rather than the distance as is traditionally done, between aircraft that are landing and taking off. This shift in emphasis reduces the ‘separation distance’, the distance needed to be maintained between two aircraft on a runway in order to be safe, enabling more aircraft to take off.
“This enhanced version of TBS is a cornerstone of our new Intelligent Approach air traffic control IT suite, jointly developed by NATS and Leidos,” said NATS operations director Juliet Kennedy.
“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.”
eTBS uses the latest European wake vortex reclassification (RECAT-EU) system, a new and more accurate codification of aircraft into distinct groups based on their size. NATS reports that under the old categorisation of aircraft, the separation distance between an A380 and a B777 on a runway was six nautical miles, but would be reduced to four nautical miles using the RECAT-EU system.
The tool provides air traffic controllers with suggestions on how best to assign aircraft to runways, based on the RECAT-EU’s Optimised Runway Delivery (ORD) model, and resulted in 2.6 additional movements of aircraft per hour in strong headwinds in tests. The use of eTBS alongside RECAT-EU delivered 37-41 aircraft landings per hour in strong headwinds, compared to 32-38 landings per hour without the models.
“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,” said Heathrow head of service transformation and performance Alison Bates.
“It will help meet Heathrow’s flight punctuality goals: bringing noticeable benefits to the airport, airlines and passengers alike.”