Newcastle airport develops fix for wind turbine interference

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Newcastle airport in the UK's north east has found a fix for the surveillance problems created by radar reflections from wind turbines.

A software application is being used to "blank" the wind farm reflections, which have the same characteristics as moving aircraft and can be dangerously misleading for controllers.

This is a particular problem for Newcastle because the region has a successful wind energy industry which has the potential to expand.

"In the past, the airport has had no alternative but to object to [wind farm] schemes where an unacceptable impact was predicted," says the airport. "The radar blanking mitigation is a software update applied to the radar system which effectively places a 'patch' to cover the potential wind farm sites. This can prevent the turbines appearing, so they cannot be mistaken for moving aircraft."

Newcastle, which runs its air traffic control entirely in-house, has developed this fix working with the UK Civil Aviation Authority, but admits that there will be a limit to the number of radar blanking areas that are possible.

"Given its finite nature, the radar blanking strategy is therefore seen as short-term mitigation," it says.

"The CAA and others throughout the industry have made, and continue to make, a concerted effort to explore a long-term solution to this issue, yet none of the emerging technologies have been proven yet. Newcastle Airport, alongside other stakeholders, is open and committed to exploring all alternatives which might emerge to find lasting solutions which will allow for further development of wind farm schemes in the North East."