The FAA published updates to the wake turbulence separation categories on October 22 for Louisville, Miami, Cincinnati, San Francisco, Atlanta and Philadelphia airports based on improved understanding of how wake vortices behave. Categories are now based on weight, certified approach speed and wing characteristics. Special consideration will be given to aircraft with limited ability to counteract adverse rolls.
Because air traffic controllers are increasingly making traffic separation decisions based upon an aircraft’s global navigation satellite system (GNSS) capability–or lack thereof–the FAA has begun updating aircraft equipment suffixes for traffic operating in U.S. domestic airspace. For instance, a GNSS-equipped aircraft may now fly a random route without the need for ATC radar monitoring, where previously radar was always required.
Canada’s Transportation Safety Board (TSB) released its report last week on the near collision between a Cessna Citation X and a Gulfstream V in NavCanada-controlled airspace on March 8 last year. Both aircraft, level at 43,000 feet and cleared on opposite-direction courses along J16, passed within one mile laterally and just under 1,000 feet vertically of each other near London, Ontario.
Standard separation required 2,000 feet vertically and five miles laterally.
The FAA has published details outlining new procedures for air traffic controllers conducting simultaneous approaches to offset parallel runways (SOIA) at airports separated laterally by less than 3,000 feet, such as San Francisco International (SFO).
Air traffic controllers are using advanced procedures to space aircraft closer together on takeoff and landing at major U.S. airports, making early progress toward a major goal of the NextGen ATC modernization effort: increasing airspace capacity.
Miami Approach Control recently reissued guidance on how it plans to handle practice instrument approach requests for aircraft in the local area. For example, standard IFR separation will be applied to all aircraft. Aircraft requesting a procedure turn or a traditional holding pattern are expected to inform the approach controller on initial contact. The facility also reminds pilots that clearance for an approach does not authorize the aircraft to fly the published missed approach without previous authorization.
Pilots and controllers at San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Memphis International (MEM) and Houston Intercontinental (HOU) may soon take part in operational testing of a new reduced-separation standard between aircraft departing on parallel runways during crosswind conditions. For the wake turbulence mitigation for departures (WTMD) procedure one of the aircraft must weigh more than 300,000 pounds (categorized as “heavy”) and weather conditions must remain at least basic VFR with a 1,000-foot ceiling and three statute miles visibility.
Controller operational errors are on the rise, according to a February 27 audit report from the DOT’s Office of the Inspector General (IG), prompted by requests from the Senate subcommittee on aviation operations, safety and security and, separately, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. According to FAA data, controller operational errors at the Southern California (SoCal) Tracon, jumped from 33 in FY09 to 189 in FY10, an increase of 473 percent.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration estimates that revised wake turbulence separation standards applied for the first time at Memphis International Airport last November have produced a 15-percent increase in flight-handling capacity at the airport.
The FAA has extended for a second year an operational evaluation of pilot initiated climbs and descents using in-trail procedures (ITP) in Pacific Ocean airspace. The trial involves 12 United Airlines Boeing 747-400s flying between the U.S. West Coast and Australia and New Zealand. Having extended the evaluation to Aug. 15, 2013, the agency said that it is also holding “exploratory conversations” with ANA and Japan Airlines to include some of their aircraft in the process.