Planned improvements in Air Traffic Management, as described by NextGen in the US and SESAR in Europe, have a common goal of enhancing capacity and harmonizing separation standards. Wake vortices are a product of lift for all aircraft and are one of the major constraints in the reduction of separation standards that are one of the solution avenues that NextGen and SESAR are pursuing in the goal for increased capacity. The existing separation standards based on wake turbulence are significantly different between the US and ICAO. Furthermore, both the ICAO and US categories, and associated separation minima among the categories, represent two very safe systems but are optimized for fleet mixes that existed 15 or more years ago. As an example, the last re-categorization effort in the US was performed in 1994. Better knowledge of wake behavior obtained through research and improved sensors that measure wake turbulence provide an opportunity to develop a new set of common categories that provide the same or increased safety over the existing US and ICAO categories while optimizing for current and future traffic demands in the US and Europe. This paper describes a joint FAA/EUROCONTROL methodology for developing and evaluating new candidate wake turbulence categories. The paper provides examples and rough estimates of capacity gains that some examples show over today’s US and ICAO categories. Finally, the paper highlights the key steps yet to be completed in achieving a joint recommendation to ICAO in 2010.
Keywords: Wake Turbulence