Dubai airport studies wake vortices to raise capacity

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Dubai's airport operator has contracted Sweden-based Avtech to study wake turbulences at the emirate's main hub to evaluate potential increases in traffic capacity.

The Stockholm-headquartered specialist for digital air traffic management technology will gather empirical turbulence data at Dubai International airport to analyse the "actual performance of wake vortices, in terms of intensity and movement".

The aim is to develop specific air traffic control procedures, which take into account the formation and dissipation of vortices under variable conditions, such as wind direction and speed.

Current air traffic control procedures use standard separation distances between landing aircraft which, Avtech says, are based on theoretical data about how much wake turbulence an aircraft produces at a certain weight.

The researchers expect, however, to be able to reduce the current separation minimums in favourable conditions and thus increase runway capacity.

The 14-month project - which is worth around SKr 3.1 million ($470,000) - will also lay the foundation for the potential development of a dynamic vortex wake assessment systems, says Lars Lindberg, chief executive of Avtech's Middle Eastern arm.

If that work goes ahead beyond the initial phase, the contract volume would be "significantly" expanded.

Avtech will draw on wake turbulence studies previously conducted with support from Sweden's government-owned innovation agency Vinnova.

Other participants in the Dubai project include Lockheed Martin, which provides laser-based sensing equipment to measure the vortices; Panasonic, which supplies the AirDat unit for meteorological data; flight management system manufacturer Honeywell; and UK air traffic services provider NATS, responsible for operational data.