FAA Updates ATC Handbook

 - May 21, 2012, 4:25 PM

FAA Order JO 7110.65 is the manual–some call it the “ATC bible”–that air traffic controllers turn to for guidance about ATC procedures and phraseology. Last week, the Agency updated a few procedures to reflect a change in thinking about speeds and aircraft separation.

Terminal ATC facilities where the Airbus A380 is joining the traffic mix are increasingly concerned about wake turbulence. Pilots can expect controllers to comply with the following: “Visual separation must not be applied to aircraft operating directly behind, within 2,500 feet of the flight path of the leading aircraft, or directly behind and less than 1,000 feet below,” an A380. If the encounter comes during the en route phase, FAA controllers are prohibited from using visual separation of any sort, if one of the aircraft is an A380.

Under normal IFR separation in the terminal environment, controllers should: “Separate aircraft operating directly behind, or directly behind and less than 1,000 feet below, or following an aircraft conducting an instrument approach by, six miles when the following aircraft is a heavy [weighing more than 300,000 pounds]. That distance increases to seven miles, if the following aircraft is large [more than 41,000 pounds] and eight miles if the aircraft weighs less than 41,000 pounds.”

Pilots can also expect to begin hearing controllers use the word “super” in the call sign when referring to an A380 on the radio. The FAA is also nudging controllers to remove speed restrictions to aircraft on standard instrument departures (SIDs) wherever possible.