Wake re-categorization begins at Louisville

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has expanded wake re-categorisation (RECAT) standards to Louisville International Airport-Standiford Field, writes Focus FAA.

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That should help controllers move air traffic through the airport more efficiently, while maintaining today’s level of safety – keeping aircraft safe from hazardous wake turbulence on final approach.

Wake RECAT more narrowly and accurately defines aircraft performance characteristics to eliminate unnecessarily long separation standards that occur with broader wake turbulence classifications. Louisville is the second airport to use wake RECAT after Memphis International Airport, where FedEx, the principle carrier there, has racked up cost savings estimated at $1.8 million monthly since it was implemented.

As the main tenant at Louisville, UPS does not fly as concentrated a schedule or as many aircraft as does FedEx, but FAA officials believe that the theoretical capacity gain there should be as significant as at Memphis. However, unlike at Memphis, Louisville controllers will transition to RECAT after having operational experience using a new NextGen tool called automated terminal proximity alert (ATPA) that warns them when aircraft are trending toward a loss of separation on approach for landing.

ATPA is a decision-support tool that provides controllers with more information than they currently receive via their radar scopes. For instance, ATPA gives a current precise readout—within one-one hundredth of a nautical mile—of the separation that exists between two consecutive aircraft coming in for landing. It also tells controllers about if and how much of that separation will reduce given current speed and other data of the aircraft as they descend. Under certain wind conditions, the distance between planes tends to compress, such as when they’re landing in a head wind, but have a tailwind farther back on final approach.

ATPA uses a series of colours on the controller’s screen to warn if separation is not being safely maintained, giving them plenty of time to react. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association has been working in partnership with the FAA to ensure that ATPA implementation on the legacy CARTS automation system is keeping up with modifications to the newer STARS programme.

They have also partnered in preparing the facility for change, and developing and performing controller training, replicating the cooperation that occurred with implementation in Memphis. Louisville will benefit from ATPA immediately because the new tool has already been adapted to the new wake turbulence categories and associated separation minima.

Memphis controllers who use the STARS platform are currently training on ATPA, and should see additional efficiencies when using RECAT separations along with ATPA. Up ahead, discussions have begun with Atlanta Hartsfield, Miami, Northern California TRACON and Cincinnati about implementing wake RECAT.