British ATC provider NATS announced last week that a new system that uses time intervals rather than distance to separate arriving and departing aircraft should be in full operation at London Heathrow Airport next spring. The dynamic time-based separations (TBS) system is expected to reduce aircraft delays while increasing an airport’s landing acceptance rate by accounting for wind-speed changes that current distance-based separation ignores.
The TBS creates its computer-generated landing rules by considering the wake turbulence generated by each aircraft, actual and forecast weather, aircraft landing order and aircraft type. The new system essentially handles the math and presents arrival controllers with a picture on their radar screens that allows them to take full advantage of the new TBS calculations.
A NATS spokesman said arrival delays at London Heathrow alone could be reduced by as much as 50 percent once the system becomes fully operational.