There is nothing that makes a product manager happier than getting feedback from a satisfied customer. As such I was absolutely delighted to hear about the benefits Air Traffic Control the Netherlands (LVNL) are enjoying after the first few months of using Intelligent Approach.

Capacity for aircraft landing at Schiphol Airport during high wind conditions has increased by 3 – 6 additional aircraft per hour, per runway. That’s an enormous benefit that’s going to make a real difference in terms of on-time performance and the noise impact for local residents, and it’s been achieved without the need for any new equipment or infrastructure at the airport itself.

Intelligent Approach is an aircraft spacing tool developed by NATS and Leidos that allows air traffic controllers to improve the consistency of spacing between arriving aircraft. That helps maximise runway capacity, reducing delays and emissions and – importantly for LVNL – the noise impact on local residents.

Intelligent Approach works by dynamically calculating the optimum time between arrivals based on both the live wind conditions (downlinked direct from each aircraft) and the aircraft size and type. This time-based interval is then translated into a marker on a controller’s radar screen, with their role to then line up each arrival as close to that line as possible.

By dynamically calculating the spacing between aircraft based on the conditions rather than relying on set distances, Intelligent Approach helps airports to grow the tactical capacity of their runways and thereby improve on-time performance.

LVNL deployed Intelligent Approach at the end of January as part of their project to adopt the new European guidelines for aircraft separation (known as RECAT) and Time Based Separation. As a proven tool already in use at Heathrow and Toronto, Intelligent Approach allowed them to do both simultaneously and the results have been almost immediate.

“LVNL is the third air traffic control organisation in the world to apply these innovations in practice,” said Michiel van Dorst, LVNL CEO. “By implementing RECAT-TBS, we contribute to improving the residential quality and living environment for people living in the local community by using the most noise sensitive runways less. We also achieve safer and better throughput in landing air traffic flows which results in airlines suffering less from delayed flights during high winds at Schiphol.”

Michiel’s sentiment was echoed by people from right across LVNL when we asked them to talk about the project and the benefits so far. From the controllers using the tool itself through to project management and LVNL’s senior directors, it couldn’t be a more resounding endorsement.

It’s been great working with such an incredibly positive and proactive organisation. Even through the challenges of the pandemic, we kept working together – often virtually or with social distancing – to keep the project moving forward. Now seeing the benefits they’re enjoying, it really was all worth it.

And there is more to come. We’re still working on introducing pairwise separation, something that will allow for much more granular separation standards. We’re also looking at extending the distance from the airport that the Intelligent Approach markers appear so controllers can start the process of optimising the arrival stream that much earlier, even allowing for curved approaches.

We’re excited to be working with all our Intelligent Approach customers to deliver the added features they want to see and use.

If you want to talk about how Intelligent Approach can benefit your operation, get in touch.


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Jon Hall

I know personally the effort that will have gone in to make this happen. Well done and congratulations to the NATS team and your partners.



Leslie Storie-Pugh

Thank you for this most interesting article regarding the successful applications of Intelligent Approach.


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