|NATS and Nav Canada have introduced a project that reduces lateral separation in the North Atlantic Tracks. Photo: NATS
[Avionics Today 12-03-2015] Aircraft flying over the North Atlantic can now be spaced closer together as part of a project to increase airspace capacity, cut fuel burn and reduce carbon emissions. The development is a result of the Reduced Lateral Separation (RLAT) project, an International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) initiative being jointly introduced by U.K. air traffic services company NATS, and Canadian Air Navigation Services Provider (ANSP) Nav Canada.
Currently the North Atlantic Tracks, which are the busiest area of oceanic airspace in the world, are separated by one degree of latitude or 60 nautical miles, but advances in aircraft and Air Traffic Management (ATM) technologies mean that these can now be safely reduced to half a degree. This reduction will allow more aircraft to achieve their optimum routing and flight level, helping to reduce flight times while reducing fuel burn and emissions, according to NATS.
Initially, one additional track is to be introduced, creating three half degree separated routes for suitably equipped aircraft to fly. However, half a degree is expected to become the standard separation minimum across the organized track structure in November 2016.
“With RLAT we are essentially turning a dual carriage way into a three-lane motorway without expanding the current road infrastructure,” said Alastair Muir, operations director at NATS’ Prestwick control center.