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Flyers see fewer high-wind delays

03 June 2016 09:06

Could delayed flights be greatly reduced?

Could delayed flights be greatly reduced?

Holidaymakers using Heathrow Airport have seen a 60% drop in wind-related flight delays, research suggests.

Strong headwinds are responsible for making tourists late more than any other factor.

But new technology successfully trialled at the west London travel hub has brought about a sharp increase in aircraft arriving on schedule, the Daily Mail reports.

Tourists at Manchester and Gatwick airports will be the next to benefit from the so-called "time-based separation" (TBS) tech. And European airports are expected to follow suit.

Delayed flights

Delayed flights are one of the curses of travellers' lives, getting their long-awaited holidays off to bad, anxious starts, especially if it causes a missed connection.

But taking out travel insurance can cover tourists against this as well as cancelled and abandoned flights.

It can also protect holidaymakers against lost baggage, mislaid passports and other travel documents, and stolen possessions.

How does TBS work?

Air traffic controllers (ATCs) have traditionally landed planes based on distance - with five miles (nautical) separating each big aircraft as they approach. Craft regularly have to circle in the skies as they await their turn if there are wind delays.

By changing the system to one based on timing instead, ATCs can better tailor the staggering of plane arrivals to the conditions.

The separation between planes narrows during severe headwinds, while times between landings stay the same. The distance expands during tail winds, although again the time stays the same.

Scientists developed the system after discovering that vortexes caused by plane engines and wings actually peter out more quickly in headwinds. This enables planes to fly nearer to each other in such conditions.

Defence company Lockheed Martin and Britain's air traffic operator Nats are behind the study.

With Manchester and Gatwick following Heathrow's lead, it will mean that 60 million customers per annum could benefit from the new system.