24 Feb One hundred twenty million European passengers will be unable to travel by 2035

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In our last infographic we talked about growth and the record number of air passengers in 2015.  We can safely conclude that aviation is back on track from before the global financial crisis. This puts pressure on Europe’s airports and airspace.

Europe has to deal with an ever increasing demand for air travel. The available capacity will, from this moment on, lack behind if we do not take action. All current EUROCONTROL’s forecast scenarios show a capacity shortfall. In the most-likely scenario almost 2 million flights cannot be accommodated by 2035 (12% of total demand); that is an estimated 120 million passengers unable to make their round trip.

Use of larger aircraft is part of the solution to the capacity shortfall. However, this solution cannot be applied everywhere. For example at airports with short runways and between city pairs that require high frequency connections the possibilities to use larger aircraft are limited. Additional infrastructure takes a long time to build, even after the political decision is made. Short (or medium) term results can only be achieved by solutions that increase capacity of existing infrastructure. Many of these ‘smart solutions’ focus on the runway, as runway capacity is the main bottleneck:

  • Time-Based Separation on Final Approach (TBS) – Increasing capacity resilience to headwinds by applying time-based instead of distance-based separations. In strong headwinds the landing rate drops because headwind slows the aircraft down. Also, wake vortices (turbulence) generated by aircraft that can be hazardous to other aircraft dissipate quicker. In the TBS concept the distance separation between aircraft is reduced in strong headwind conditions resulting in a higher landing rate of 2 to 4 aircraft per hour. This is a first step in optimizing the wake vortex separation distances between aircraft based on the actual meteorological conditions.
  • Wake Turbulence Re-Categorisation (RECAT) – Safely increasing airport capacity by redefining wake turbulence categories and their associated separation minima, can increase capacity by 5%. Today’s wake categorization is 40 years old and only based on the aircraft maximum take-off weight. In many cases traffic is ‘over-separated’, at the cost of capacity. Increasing the number of categories and also taking the aircraft resilience to wake turbulence into account yields more precise categorisation to optimize capacity.
  • Brake to Vacate (BTV) system – Airbus’ brake to vacate system reduces the time aircraft spend on the runway by efficiently applying braking power. The runway occupancy time can be reduced by up to 30% and capacity is expected to increase by approximately 15%.

These measures are vital to close the gap between demand and capacity, especially at the busiest airports. Also less popular measures are needed to entirely close the gap. These include: shifting flights to off-peak-periods and other airports, and the construction of new runways.

Flights in the off-peak-periods are generally less attractive. Airlines are reluctant to move to other (developing) airports, because of limited facilities and accessibility. On the other hand, airlines would welcome the construction of a new runway at an existing airport, but people who will be affected by the new runway will object fiercely. Examples are the cold reception by airlines to operate from Lelystad Airport instead of Amsterdam Airport Schiphol and the ongoing debate about the construction of a new runway at either London’s Gatwick or Heathrow airport.

infographic Aviation Capacity

About To70. To70 is one of the world’s leading aviation consultancies, founded in the Netherlands with offices in Europe, Australia, Asia, and Latin America. To70 believes that society’s growing demand for transport and mobility can be met in a safe, efficient, environmentally friendly and economically viable manner. For more information please refer to www.to70.com

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Arjen de Leege
Arjen de Leege
Arjen de Leege is an aviation consultant that takes a data-driven approach to solve problems, drive decision making, and deliver new insights. In 2007 he was happy to join the Dutch To70 team and contribute to the team with his experience in flight tracking and flight data analysis using ADS-B, operations research techniques, modelling, and simulation.
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