As a British Airways pilot on the Airbus fleet based at Heathrow, I am all too familiar with the impact of strong headwinds on final approach into Heathrow.
Basically, when there are strong headwinds, we have a reduced groundspeed compared to a still wind day and, given that aircraft are separated by distance on final approach, this results in a reduced hourly landing rate. Unfortunately, this has the all too familiar consequence for us of a lengthy inbound slot delay.
Heathrow is running close to capacity and there is little opportunity to recover from these delays when they do occur. I have been told that headwinds are the single biggest cause of delay at Heathrow and there about 60 days in the year when there are significant delays as a result of strong headwinds.
October 11th 2013 was just such a day and the airport suffered from 12,000 minutes of direct delay without even factoring in the rotational impact of the strong winds due to the knock-on effect of the original slot delays.
We do see TBS as the future as this will enable aircraft to be spaced closer together on approach in terms of distance but with no reduction in the time interval between landings compared to a calm day.
We know that TBS will not solve all strong wind delays but it will certainly reduce the length of our inbound slot delay. Indeed, we understand that TBS will reduce delays due to winds by 50% and, consequently, we are committed to working hard with NATS to ensure that ATC and crew procedures enable the maximum benefit to be achieved when it is introduced.
For example, I will take some controllers into our flight simulators so they can fully understand any changes to procedures from a pilot perspective.
Ultimately, we look forward to the introduction of TBS in 2015 as it will make a big difference to our customers.
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