Heathrow and partners’ world-first innovation wins European recognition


LONDON, England – An innovative new procedure pioneered at Heathrow that allows more aircraft to land per hour during heavy head winds won one of five Single European Sky Awards yesterday.

The operating procedure, called Time Based Separation (TBS), is a world-first at Heathrow, and came as a result of a partnership between NATS, Lockheed Martin and EUROCONTROL. TBS has led to an overall 60% reduction in aircraft delays during windy conditions due to air traffic control management, with 25,000 minutes of delay time being saved in the month of November alone.

Under normal conditions NATS air traffic controllers land around 42 aircraft an hour at Heathrow, the world’s busiest dual runway operation, however that falls dramatically in a strong headwind when aircraft fly more slowly over the ground. TBS allows aircraft operators to counteract the effect of wind on the landing rates by using live data from aircraft to adjust the separation between arrivals based on time rather than distance.

The Single European Sky awards celebrate the best examples of collaboration within the air traffic management community in Europe, helping to increase interoperability and encourage innovation.

Mark Burgess, Head of Air Traffic Management & Air Traffic Control at Heathrow says:

“Through Time Based Separation, we have delivered a better passenger experience, better service to our airline customers and also reduced our environmental impacts by reducing emissions and noise. The success of this industry-leading technique could have only come about through collaboration with our partners and a joint ambition to improve and drive forward innovation in air traffic management across Europe.”

TBS is now mandated to be in operation at Europe’s busiest airports by 2024 and many of the lessons learned from the work to take it from concept to implementation will be valuable across Europe in the coming years.