FAA Order 7110.659A, effective June 1, will recategorize the guidelines air traffic controllers use to provide proper wake turbulence separation. The new standards are expected to increase airport capacity while reducing both arrival and departure delays.
The FAA currently classifies aircraft for wake turbulence purposes based on maximum certified takeoff weight as heavy, large and small. Using these categories, current heavy-behind-heavy separation is four miles, which is appropriate for a Boeing 767 following a larger 747, but not necessary when the 747 is following the 767.
Under the new standards aircraft are classified by wingspan, the aircraft’s ability to withstand a wake encounter and takeoff weight, now resulting in six wake-turbulence categories. The new guidelines split the current heavy and large weight classes into four wake categories: two for heavy and two for large. The A388 (A380) and A225 (AN225) become their own wake categories while the weight class of small aircraft also remains as its own category.