At the recently concluded 7th International Best Practice Competition, 11 May 2021, Dubai Air Navigation Services (dans) were announced as one of the five winners for their best practice ‘Dubai RECAT-Enhanced Wake Turbulence Separation Minima within the Dubai CTA (Control Area)’. What impressed the judges was dans’ contribution to excellence in the planning and setting of standards for air navigation services at a regional and global level. [Note: Wake turbulence is a disturbance in the atmosphere formed behind an aircraft as it passes through air; it can affect encountering aircraft due to the strength, duration, and direction of the vortices].
Dubai International Airport is the busiest airport in the world in terms of volume of international passengers, and is home to the largest fleet of ‘Super Heavy’ aircrafts. The innovation project was driven by a forecast of 120 million passengers in 2022 (pre-Covid forecast). To cater to the surge in future demand, Dubai RECAT was initiated to create more hourly runway capacity for the departing and landing aircrafts through recategorization of aircrafts based on the wake turbulence to help reduce the minimum safe separation distance between two aircrafts of different or the same size, increase the efficiency of the landing and departing procedures, and reduce delays
Currently, the majority of the airports across the globe adopt the standard ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) wake turbulence separation based on four aircraft categories (Super, Heavy, Medium and Light). Dubai has adopted an innovative and efficient practice based on seven categories.
It took seven years for dans to design and implement a practice based on research, data collection and analysis of wake turbulence generated by aircrafts, and captured by 5 radars (LIDARS) deployed since early 2013. DANS conducted this study in cooperation with EUROCONTROL and Coherent Research Group USA. The practice was an enhanced version of a previously implemented project in 2016 with the minimal separation wake turbulence of 3 NM (Nautical Miles). Dans ensured active stakeholder engagement with Emirates Airlines, Fly Dubai, Air Arabia, Dubai Airports and other stakeholders.
Dans research confirmed the applicability of RECAT under the unique meteorological conditions of Dubai airport, specifically at very low levels and with an explicit focus on the biggest aircraft in the world i.e., Airbus A380. A new wake behavior emerged that was never analyzed or calculated before. Several live trials were conducted to assess the initial results. Positive outcomes were achieved in the validation (2017-18) and implementation phases (2019-20) with the practice approved by the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority and fully compliant with the ICAO RECAT (eWTS) minima criteria. Dubai RECAT was fully implemented during the COVID pandemic on 21 Feb 2021 across all Dubai Airspace (CTA) and is now applied daily by 130 dans air traffic controllers affecting 30/40 airlines across an average of 700 daily flights.
Results achieved so far were shared by dans on 23 February 2021 at the Annual ICAO International Conference. 30-day and 60-day reviews showed promising results against ICAO Legacy Standards (Figure 2) indicating an increase in capacity of 1.7 plane movements per hour. Other benefits include, reduction of fuel burn, reduction in CO2 emission and an increase in productivity. With an expected increase in air traffic in the future, the effect of this practice will enable Dubai to maintain its position as a world-class airport.
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