The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will allow aircraft to land closer together at five major airports thanks to Lockheed Martin’s recently approved WindTracer Doppler Lidar Systems.

The FAA has approved a national flight rules change for aircraft separation based on data collected from a test deployment at Lambert-St Louis International Airport since 2003 as part of the FAA wake turbulence research programme for closely spaced parallel runways (CSPR).

As a key result of the study, the FAA will soon allow large or small-class aircraft to land with a reduced spacing of 1.5nm to the leading large aircraft when landing on CSPRs with less than 2,500ft separation. Current separation rules require that planes arriving on two such CSPRs be spaced as if they were using a single runway.

This reduced separation will be implemented at five major US airports with CSPR, including Philadelphia International Airport, Seattle Tacoma International Airport, Lambert-St Louis International Airport, Boston Logan International Airport and Cleveland Hopkins Airport.

Environmental Sensing director for Lockheed Martin Coherent Technologies, Dr Stephen Hannon said that there are significant capacity benefits to be gained from the new rule, which can be achieved using existing infrastructure.

“WindTracer monitors the approaches to runways and collects data on wake turbulence created by landing aircraft under various weather conditions. The research program evaluated the potential capacity improvements by safely reducing separations between aircraft arriving on parallel runways,” said Hannon.

WindTracer has been used by the Federal Aviation Administration since 2001 to conduct wake vortex detection and tracking for consideration of national flight procedure changes. Systems are also performing wake-related functions at San Francisco International Airport, Houston Intercontinental Airport and Heathrow International Airport in London.

By Daniel Garrun.