Can A380s Safely Fly Steep Approaches to Heathrow?

 - April 16, 2012, 4:59 PM
Emirates Airline proposes a partial exception to the night ban at Heathrow Airport for its A380s.

Emirates Airlines has offered a unique proposal to the British CAA that might allow the carrier to land its A380s at London Heathrow Airport in the middle of the night, when traffic levels are minimal. The plan would require the giant aircraft to use much steeper approaches than normal and land farther down the runway, past the traditional touchdown zone.

The idea came from Emirates President Tim Clark, as an attempt to increase aircraft usage at LHR. Heathrow flights now are severely curtailed between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. to protect surrounding communities from excessive noise.

“The idea to look into this steeper approach option evolved from the A380’s initial certification, when we realized the aircraft developed much less noise than even we expected,” an Airbus spokesman told AIN. “The question, of course, will be whether Airbus and Emirates can figure out a way to safely operate the aircraft at a steeper approach path.

The updated approach path would require a 5.5-degree approach slope as opposed to the normal 3 degrees. The steeper approach is, in fact, the same approach path used at nearby London City Airport, where special certification is also required.

Emirates has tested the steeper approaches in a simulator but not yet in a real aircraft. Airbus says there is no specific project in the works right now to update the A380s certified approach capability.