New technology has been installed at Heathrow that aims to dramatically cut the number of delays caused by poor visibility.
The London airport becomes the first airport in the world to be fitted with the Microwave Landing System technology, which has also been installed on a fleet of British Airways planes. The manufacturers claim this will improve the possibility of landings in fog or other poor conditions by 20 percent.
With runways at London’s main airports operating close operational capacity, delays caused by heavy fog currently throw its operations into disarray. As a result air traffic controllers have to cut the number of landings from 44 per hour to 24, for an average of about 10 times a year.
Once a plane is forced to circle due to fog, it risks losing its landing slot. The knock-on effect is not only delays to the plane landing, but also its departure on its next trip.
It is this which normally leads to the waves of cancellations.
The new technology involves installing fresh transmitters at both ends of each runway and on the plane, and according to experts is the aviation equivalent of a radio moving from AM to digital. This will make it possible to land an extra six aircraft an hour during bad visibility.
The system works in conjunction with a receiver installed on planes. British Airways has fitted the technology on the bulk of its short-haul fleet of Airbus A320s and A321s.
“This pioneer initiative will mean less disruption and congestion, which is great news for our customers,” Captain Stephen Riley, BA’s head of flight operations told The Telegraph. “It will also reduce holding times for aircraft, which will cut unnecessary carbon emissions.”
This, while not completely eliminating all delays, should prevent the airport going into ‘meltdown’ as it has in the past.