[Avionics Today April 3, 2014] The U.K.'s national air navigation service provider, NATS, is testing a new operational procedure designed to reduce the amount of time aircraft spend circling around in "holding stacks" at London Heathrow Airport.
According to NATS, its XMAN project has conducted the first live trial to reduce holding times at the U.K.'s busiest airport. The procedure would enable air traffic controllers to slow down aircraft up to 350 miles away from the airport, versus the current technology which allows communication with aircraft at a maximum distance of 80 miles away.
During the first pre-trial test of the system, flight BAW74 was passed between NATS and French air traffic controllers.
Adding the capability would help to reduce the impact of delays on the arrival of aircraft, no longer requiring approaching pilots to fly in holding stacks while waiting to land. Not only would the technology reduce that impact, it would also allow airlines to save money on all the jet fuel used to power those flights.
“This is the first cross border arrivals management – or XMAN – trial of its kind anywhere in the world and a great example of partnership working for the benefit of our customers and a potential future model for the industry. We expect the trial to be a significant benefit to our airline customers in terms of fuel savings," said Martin Rolfe, managing director of operations at NATS.