Enlarge text

  • Print this page

Operational Freedoms trial: Phase 2

Phase 2 of the trial commences on 1 July 2012 and will run until 31 March 2013. It will continue to use some of the measures used during Phase 1. The Government has also agreed to the trial of additional freedoms not used during Phase 1 following recommendations and learnings from Phase 1.

During Phase 2 of the trial, the following procedures will be tested:

  1. Operating arrivals on the designated departures runway;
  2. Re-directing departing aircraft:
    1. in segregated mode;
    2. in dual departures mode (see update);
  3. Landing inbound aircraft without holding between 05:30 - 06:00hrs in return for a reduction in the number of flights between 04:30-05:00hrs (see update);
  4. Proactive tests.

An explanation of each of these Operational Freedoms can be found below.

A fuller explanation of Phase 2 can be found in the Phase 2 explanatory document (135KB PDF).  This document explains the operating procedures in place before the trial and during the trial.

Monthly reports

Heathrow Operational Freedoms Monthly Report - July 2012 (15.4 MB)

Heathrow Operational Freedoms Monthly Report - August 2012 (17.6 MB)

Heathrow Operational Freedoms Monthly Report - September 2012 (17.9 MB)

Heathrow Operational Freedoms Monthly Report - October 2012 (8.04 MB)

Heathrow Operational Freedoms Monthly Report - November 2012 (5.42 MB)

Heathrow Operational Freedoms Monthly Report - December 2012 (5.59 MB)

Heathrow Operational Freedoms Monthly Report - January 2013 (5.46 MB)

Heathrow Operational Freedoms Monthly Report - February 2013 (1.70 MB)

 

1 November 2012

Update on Phase 2 Operational Freedom 3 – landing inbound aircraft without holding

As part of the second phase of the Operational Freedoms trial, one of the measures proposed was to explore whether it would be possible to delay the disturbance to local residents from early morning arrivals by reducing the number of aircraft landing before 0500. 

Further detailed work and discussions with the industry has found that it will not be possible to implement this measure during the trial due to operational factors. However, we hope to be able to build on the learning from this exercise going forward.

Update on Phase 2 Operational Freedom 2 – Re-directing departing aircraft

Using a single runway for departures can sometimes be insufficient to mitigate disruption. In these circumstances, using both runways simultaneously for departures could be a valuable way to temporarily increase the departure rate at times of severe delay and disruption at Heathrow.

One of the measures agreed by the Minister of State for Transport for use during phase 2 of the operational freedoms trial was to allow aircraft to be re-directed earlier than usual from their route when, as a result of severe delays, both runways are being used for departures (called 'dual departures').

However, because of the distance between the departure routes from Heathrow's two runways, the use of the dual departures measure requires special procedures to be in place to ensure sufficient separation between aircraft.

Work to develop these procedures has been on-going between NATS and the CAA, who are responsible for regulating all of Heathrow's operations. During these discussions it has become clear that it will take considerably more time than was originally envisaged to develop the special procedures required.

A decision has therefore been taken by Heathrow, NATS, the CAA and the DfT to no longer undertake a trial of early vectoring using dual departures during the second phase of the operational freedoms trial.

Safeguards

A number of safeguards have been agreed by the DfT and CAA to ensure that the trial is bounded. These are as follows:

  • There will be no increase in the flights at Heathrow – the airport is capped at 480,000 flights a year.
  • There will be no increase in the hourly scheduled capacity of the airport during the trial.
  • In the context of this trial, Heathrow has undertaken to only use two runways for arrivals or two runways for departures at any one time and not to test these two operating scenarios concurrently.

Additional safeguards have been agreed with the DfT for particular Operational Freedoms in Phase 2 and are set out within each explanation of these procedures.

Operational Freedom 1 – Operating arrivals on the designated departures runway

Background

Most of the time at Heathrow one runway is used for landings, and one runway for departures. When the build-up of arriving aircraft results in severe delays, Air Traffic Control is allowed to land aircraft on both runways. This is known as Tactically Enhanced Arrivals Mode (TEAM).

The first phase of the trial built on this by trialling: a) the further use of dual arrivals operations i.e landing arrivals on the runway designated for departures; and b) the use of dual departures operations i.e. operating departures from the runway designated for arrivals. This procedure was not used at Heathrow prior to the trial.

The use of dual arrivals will continue to be used during Phase 2 using the same triggers.  For Phase 2, the DfT has agreed to raise the limit of the numbers of aircraft that can land using this procedure from 6 to 12 per hour.

Watch the video to see how this procedure will work

Q. When will the procedure be used and how often?

The measure will be used during both easterly and westerly operations and will be used once one or more of the following conditions have been met:

  • The anticipated arrival delay or departure delay is 10 minutes or more - The procedure would be activated if air traffic control anticipates aircraft will either, be held in the stack longer than 10 minutes, or, will be held on the taxiway before departing for longer than 10 minutes. The decision would be made on an emerging trend rather than on an individual aircraft. Once the trend has decreased to aircraft being held for less than 10 minutes, the procedure is deactivated.
  • The headwind component on approach to Heathrow is forecast to be greater than 20 knots at 3000ft - Strong winds at the airport can result in delays of the landing aircraft because of the wind's effect on the speed of the aircraft. If strong winds are forecasted, air traffic control can use the procedure to alleviate any delay. Once the headwind has reduced to below 20 knots at 3000ft, the procedure is deactivated.
  • The arrival flight schedule is anticipated to run later than 30 minutes or 30% of flights are running outside of the 15 minutes punctuality target - For arrivals, punctuality is defined as the time at which an aircraft arrives on stand compared to its planned time of arrival. Factors outside of the airports control can result in the aircraft arriving late, e.g. weather en route to the airport. If aircraft are running 30 minutes late, or if 30% of all aircraft operating from Heathrow are running 15 minutes late then this trigger can be activated. Once the delay to aircraft has reduced to below 30 minutes, or less than 30% of flights are running within the 15 minutes punctuality target, the procedure can the be deactivated.
  • Following a period of disruption to recover the operation such as snow - Disruption to the airport arrival and departure schedule can continue beyond the initial disruptive event, e.g. when volcanic ash effected operations at the airport, it took a couple of days for the flying programme to get back to normal because aircraft were in the wrong places, passengers were stranded in the wrong countries and pilots and aircrew were not running to their planned roster. The quicker the flying programme can return to normal the quicker the disruption can be mitigated. Once the flying programme is back on track, the procedure would be deactivated.

Q. What benefits are expected from using this procedure?

  • The use of dual arrivals may reduce the stack-holding times and therefore lead to a reduction in emissions.
  • The use of this procedure may improve punctuality and help Heathrow recover more quickly during periods of delay and disruption.

Q. What are the expected impacts for local residents?

  • By implementing this Operational Freedom we anticipate there will be more flights landing out of alternation.

Safeguards

  • The scope to use this procedures is limited by the departure demand.

[return to top]

Operational Freedom 2- Re-directing departing aircraft

Background

At Heathrow there are approximately 650 departures every day.  Most of these happen between 06:00 and 23:00 hrs.  Aircraft departing from Heathrow follow set departure routes (known as Noise Preferential Routes or NPRs).  These were set by the Government many decades ago.  The choice of departure route used by aircraft is mostly decided on their destination. Those heading to Scandinavia for example will use northerly departure routes whereas those destined for southern Europe will use southerly departure routes.

On a normal day at Heathrow, one of the biggest causes of delay is that some of the departure routes are used more heavily than others.  This is due to the fact that the majority of aircraft start their journey towards their destination by making an initial turn to the south shortly after take-off.  This is simply because of the geographical location of the UK and the destinations served by the airport.

The use of this procedure during Phase 2 means that departures using southerly departure routes can be redirected from the departure route earlier than is usual.   This means the separations between aircraft can be reduced from two minutes to one minute on these southerly departures. The re-directed aircraft will mostly remain within the boundaries of the existing departure routes.


During Phase 2, it has been agreed that this procedure can be used in both segregated mode (i.e. using only one runway for departures) and in dual mode (i.e. using both runways for departures).  The latter is subject to approval of the safety case by CAA.

Q. When will departing flights be re-directed and how often?

Segregated mode

  • This procedure would only be used where certain triggers have been met;
  • Anticipated departure delay is 10 minutes or more;
  • Departure flight schedule is anticipated to run later than 30 minutes or 30% of departures are running 15 minutes late;
  • Recovery from runway limitations due to weather, contamination (snow, ice etc) or closure

Dual mode

  • The same triggers as above apply.  However re-directing of aircraft in dual mode will only be used when departure capacity on segregated mode is insufficient to deal with departure demand. This would be particularly important in the hours preceding the night period to avoid unscheduled late running departures.

Q.What benefits are expected from using this procedure?

The use of this Freedom would allow an increase in the number of departures during peak times when there are a lot of southbound departures.  This may lead to:

  • a reduction in runway holding delays and taxiway congestion;
  • a reduction in the number of cancelled flights;
  • a reduction in the number of unscheduled night movements.

Q. What are the expected impacts for local residents?

  • We recognise that during periods when aircraft are being re-directed for dual departures, there will be an impact on the respite period for those communities living close to the departure end of the arrivals runway.
  • For both segregated and dual runway mode, the majority of re-routed flights will stay within the set departure routes.

Safeguards

Segregated mode

  • The scope to use this procedure is limited by aircraft arrival demand;
  • Respite from aircraft noise will continue for those living close to the end of the designated arrivals runway;
  • Vectored aircraft will mostly remain within the set departure routes (Noise Preferential Routes)

Dual mode

  • The scope to use this procedure is limited by aircraft arrival demand.
  • It will only be used when the degree of impact of delay/disruption exceeds capability of single runway.
  • The use of this procedure is limited to a maximum number of 12 departures per hour in addition to the early vectoring capability of a single runway.
  • Vectored aircraft will mostly remain within the set departure routes (Noise Preferential Routes)

[return to top]

Operational Freedom 3- Landing inbound aircraft without holding between 05:30 - 06:00hrs in return for a reduction in the number of flights between 04:30-05:00hrs

Background

The Government sets the night restrictions at Heathrow.  These restrictions limit the numbers and types of aircraft that are allowed to operate between 23:30-06:00.  The majority of night flights are early morning arrivals which start landing from around 04:30.  On average there are about 14-16 aircraft that are scheduled to arrive between 04:30-06:00.

Aircraft arriving in Heathrow’s airspace earlier than scheduled and that are not scheduled to land before 06:00 usually have to wait to land in the holding stacks around Heathrow.  There are many reasons why aircraft arrive early that are beyond an airlines control – for example aircraft flying into the UK from North America frequently encounter tail winds that make their time of arrival unpredictable. This often means there is a build up of aircraft waiting to land after 06:00 which creates emission, burns fuel and causes congestion of aircraft after 06:00.

The procedure agreed as part of Phase 2 of the trial allows certain types of aircraft to be landed between 05:30-06:00 in addition to the scheduled arrivals.  These would be limited to the quieter types of aircraft with a scheduled time of arrival after 06:10.  A flight could only be landed in return for one that was scheduled to land between 04:30-05:00 actually landing after 05:00.
When will this procedure be used and how often?

This procedure could be used daily both on easterly and westerly operations.  However additional flights from the 06:00 hour could only be landed in the 05:00 hour if less flights were landed between 04:30-05:00.  It is anticipated that the number of aircraft that can be brought forward from landing in the 06:00 hour to the 05:00 hour will typically be in single figures and will never exceed 12 per day.

Any additional aircraft landing before 06:00 will use the same arrivals runway as the scheduled early morning arrivals (in line with the published Runway Alternation schedule).

What benefits do you expect to see from using this procedure?

  • This procedure should avoid the build-up of aircraft at the start of the operational day which  may otherwise require the use of other operational freedoms to offset delay later in the day.
  • There may be a reduction in the stack-holding times and therefore benefits to emissions.
  • There may be a reduction in the number of cancelled flights caused as a result of delays.
  • There may be a reduction in the number of late running flights which means less disruption for local residents at the end of the day.

What are the expected impacts for local residents?

  • By implementing this Operational Freedom we anticipate there will be more flights between 05:30-06:00 but less flights between 04:30-05:00.
  • By avoiding delays at the start of the operational delay, this will benefit Heathrow’s overall efficiency and punctuality and may result in less unscheduled late night departures.
    Safeguards.
  • There will be single runway operations between 05:00 to 06:00 and any  additional aircraft landing before 06:00 will use the same arrivals runway as the scheduled early morning arrivals (in line with the published Runway Alternation schedule).
  • Only quieter aircraft with a scheduled time of arrival after 0610 hours local will qualify to land before 06:00.
  • The number of aircraft brought forward from landing in the 0600 hour to the 0500 hour is restricted to no more than 12 per day.

[return to top]

Operational Freedom 4 – Proactive tests

Background

During Phase 2 we will trial a number of proactive tests used as part of Phase 1 to further explore the passenger, environmental and operational impacts. These proactive tests are:

  1. Landing Airbus A380 on the designated departures runway; The A380 is the biggest aircraft that operates at the airport. Due to the vortex it produces, aircraft behind it have to allow a greater distance when coming into land. The knock-on effect is that the arrivals programme can be delayed allowing for the A380 to come in before smaller aircraft can then make their approach to land. The airport is testing what difference it would make to the arrival schedule by allowing the aircraft to land on the departure runway.
  2. Landing small aircraft on the designated departures runway; Smaller aircraft are affected by the vortex produced by larger aircraft and therefore more spacing is needed between them. Heathrow is interested in testing whether the landing flow of aircraft can be improved, whilst reducing the number of aircraft held in the stack, by taking the smaller aircraft out of the current arrival flow and landing them on the designated departure runway.
  3. Use of the southern runway for Terminal 4 arrivals; Terminal 4 is situated south of the southern runway and therefore permitting arriving aircraft to operate from the southern runway, will result in a shorter taxi route for the aircraft. This will have the added benefit of reducing ground noise and emissions and avoiding crossing the southern runway and so reducing disruption.

Watch the video to see how this procedure will work

When will these procedures be used and how often?

During Phase 2, these tests will be limited to three defined periods, the dates of which are

  • 16 July - 15 August 2012
  • 1 October - 31 October 2012
  • 1 March - 31 March 2013

What benefits are expected from using this procedure?

  • The use of proactive tests may reduce the amount of taxiing times and therefore lead to a reduction in ground emissions.
  • The use of this procedure may improve punctuality for airlines and passengers.
    What are the expected impacts for local residents?
  • By implementing this Operational Freedom we anticipate there will be more flights landing out of alternation.

Safeguards

  • The scope to use this will be limited by arrival and departure demand.  

[return to top]

Noise action plan

Jet engine

Managing the impacts of aircraft noise.

View Noise Action Plan

Report noise

noise148x83.jpg

Let us know about a noise incident in your area.

Log a noise enquiry