Changi airport moves to enhance air traffic management

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Singapore is increasing the operational efficiency of Changi airport as it moves towards opening a third runway by the end of the decade.

Measures such as reducing the separation times between aircraft and runway down time were recently implemented, says the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS).

This will help the airport to cope with a big increase in aircraft movements, mainly due to the boom in low-cost travel in Southeast Asia since 2006, adds the airport regulator.

The measures come after a recent study by UK air navigation service provider NATS showed that by improving air traffic management processes and implementing measures to boost additional runway availability, Changi airport's two-runway capacity can be upped by 40%.

The airport handled over 300,000 aircraft movements in 2011, a 14.5% hike from 2010. This increase has resulted in delays in aircraft take-offs and landings at the airport, especially during peak hours.

To expedite air traffic flows, CAAS has cut the separation timing between same weight-category departures from 120s to either 90s or 60s, depending on airborne traffic conditions.

It has also reconfigured flight routes, and implemented speed and height controls to improve the predictability of air traffic flows. This facilitates tighter separation between aircraft, and reduces controller and pilot response time, says CAAS.

To reduce runway downtime, runway maintenance works have also been rescheduled to the night when traffic is lighter. Certain inspection works are also being done remotely, so as to remove the need for runway closure.

CAAS is also working with airlines to reduce the time aircraft spend on the runway.

"This would free up the runway for use by other aircraft as soon as possible. It will also facilitate tighter separation between the arriving aircraft," it adds.

A government committee, chaired by the country's minister of state for transport, Josephine Teo, has meanwhile recommended that Changi's third runway be readied for civilian co-use by 2020.

The third runway, parallel to the two existing runways at Changi, is being used exclusively by the Singapore air force.

The committee has also predicted that passenger traffic at Changi will grow at an annual compound rate of 5% until the end of 2020, and up to 4% between 2020 and 2030.