Grant Bradley

Aviation, tourism and energy writer for the Business Herald

Upgraded air traffic control systems cut delays and costs

Flight management systems are calculated to have saved Airways' client airlines $15 million worth of  fuel in 2013/14. Picture / Duncan Brown
Flight management systems are calculated to have saved Airways' client airlines $15 million worth of fuel in 2013/14. Picture / Duncan Brown

New air traffic control systems to cut bottlenecks have resulted in fewer delays this year and bigger fuel savings, says Airways.

New systems have cut inflight delay times at the four main airports to their lowest level - down to 3000 minutes, or 56 per cent less for May and June than the 2012-13 average.

Airways' Auckland operations chief Tim Boyle said two systems - a collaborative flow manager to better manage departures and another to better sequence arrivals - had reduced delays.

The Arrival Manager tool enabled controllers to optimise the flow of arriving aircraft from up to 45 minutes away from airports.

"It looks at what the capacity of the runway is and can recommend a speed adjustment to make sure they arrive in a suitable sequence," he said.

The new system was unrelated to the Smart Approach trial which has led to complaints from Auckland residents upset at aircraft being routed over their houses.

Boyle said the system made air traffic controllers' jobs easier.

"It's here to help them. If there's a 50/50 decision to be made, it suggests the optimal sequence."

Controllers made the final decision but it "saves thinking time".

Airways' chief operating officer Pauline Lamb said it was estimated that as well as significantly reducing inflight delays, the Arrivals Manager system had reduced more than 1770 tonnes of carbon dioxide for customer airlines and saved them at least $735,000 in fuel since July last year.

Combined with the collaborative flow manager (CFM) and other technology and service improvements, the new measures had saved airlines more than 11 million kilograms of fuel in 2013-14, equating to about $15 million in fuel-cost savings.

The CFM system enables airlines to prioritise their flights according to their own business needs - subject to available slots, runway capacity and trajectory predictions updated by the system.

At Auckland Airport, about 35 per cent of air traffic is international and 65 per cent is domestic.

Airways has spent about $2 million on its arrival and flow management systems.

- NZ Herald

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