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New guidelines show shorter A380 separation distances

Airbus appears to be moving closer to reaching its goal of establishing wake vortex separation distances for the A380 similar to the Boeing 747 based on revised guidance from ICAO.

Previous interim guidance issued by the international regulatory body outlined an approach and departure of 6nm separation for a heavy aircraft such as the 747, 8nm for medium or small aircraft in the A320 category and 10 nm for light category aircraft.

Those values were still 2nm, 3nm and 4nm greater than the separation recommended for heavy aircraft such as the 747.

An air traffic guidance document issued today by the UK CAA cites new ICAO regulations for the A380 wake vortex separation that drops the distance to 7nm for medium and small aircraft and 8nm for light aircraft. Guidelines for heavy aircraft remained unchanged.

Through the A380 development programme Airbus conducted extensive testing of A380 separation distances including back-to-back tests of the A380 and 747 using lidar wake vortex detection technology and examined the behaviour of an A320 flying behind the A380 with a wake vortex visualisation feature.


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