Increase Capacity with Current Infrastructure, is that even Possible?

Airport capacity is one of the biggest challenges in Europe. Many of the major hub airports operate at or close to their maximum capacity. At the same time air traffic in Europe is expected to have grown by 16% by 2020. Expansion of physical airport infrastructure offers only a very limited solution. It takes a long time before there’s new tarmac, runways and terminals, which may prove too little too late to absorb the growth of air traffic. The fact of the matter is: building additional capacity is no longer enough to meet the increasing demand, especially on short term. Smarter use of existing infrastructure is required, a conclusion commonly shared by the SESAR partners; working together to create a Single European Sky.

Currently a number of developments are implemented to do just that; increase runway capacity without requiring new infrastructure:

  • Reduce the separation minima between aircraft. This requires a more precise categorisation of the aircraft’s wake turbulence than the traditional ICAO categorisation which is over 40 years old. The European Wake Vortex Re-categorisation (RECAT-EU) does just that.
  • Implement a Time Based Separation system, as has been done at London Heathrow. This system developed by NATS and Lockheed Martin dynamically adjusts the separation between arriving aircraft, to maintain a time separation equivalent to the distance separation with a headwind of 5-7 knots. By doing so, most of the capacity lost as a result of headwinds can be recovered.
  • The Brake to Vacate system developed by Airbus that has been designed to optimise braking efficiency and runway turn-around time, with the potential of reducing runway occupancy time by up to 30 %.
  • Continuing improvement of AMAN systems, like the new Advanced Schiphol Arrival Planner which has become operational earlier this month. By more accurately calculating the time of arrival on the runway, further optimization of inbound traffic flows is possible.

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At To70, we closely follow these and other developments. We believe the experience gained in the implementation of such initiatives must be used and ‘exported’ to benefit other airports. A joined effort in smarter use of infrastructure can solve the capacity challenge. There really is no alternative.

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

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