11 JANUARY 2016
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A project to cut aircraft holding times at Heathrow Airport has been so successful that the trial procedure has now entered permanent operational service.
Known as cross-border arrivals management – or XMAN – the procedure sees NATS air traffic controllers in the UK working with those in the surrounding airspace in France, Ireland, Belgium and the Netherlands to slow aircraft down up to 350 miles away from London in order to minimise holding times on arrival.
Since April 2014 NATS has recorded a reduction of up to a minute in holding times for those aircraft influenced by the trial. This equates to annual savings of 8,000 tonnes of CO2 and £1.65m in fuel, as well as a reduction in noise for communities beneath the holding stacks.
Heathrow is scheduled to 98% capacity and relies on the continuous flow of traffic that the stacks provide, although NATS always aims to minimise the amount of time aircraft spend in them. Traditionally, NATS could only influence an aircraft’s approach once it entered UK airspace, which can be only 80 miles from the airport. This previously limited the chance to manage the inbound flow of traffic. www.nats.aero
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