Airbus expects reduced A380 approach separations this year

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Airbus is hopeful that the International Civil Aviation Organisation will finally issue revised guidelines for the A380s separation distances before the end of the year, but is reluctant to disclose what it expects the new values will be.

Last year ICAO ruled that the separation distances for aircraft following an A380 on approach had to be between 2nm and 4nm (3.7km and 7.4km) greater than the values for a "heavy" category aircraft such as a Boeing 747.

Airbus has undertaken extensive back-to-back flight testing of the A380 with other aircraft ranging from the A318 and A340 to the Boeing 777 and 747, taking detailed measurements using Lidar laser radar technology. This data was presented to ICAO in 2007 and a new ruling was expected before the end of last year, but the evaluation of the data continues, says A380 chief engineer Marc Guinot. "We should be able to announce a reduction in separation distances in the second half of 2008."

Guinot says that until the studies "are fully blessed by everybody, Airbus cannot comment" on what the revised distances are likely to be. However, he adds that the "first priority" is to get the A380's increased separation to medium category aircraft such as the Airbus A320 or Boeing 737 reduced from the current "plus 3nm", but concedes that he does not expect the figure to be "completely eliminated" this year. "We expect reductions in the distances for the other categories to follow," he says.