Wake turbulence: Geneva exception ends


28.03.2013

Air traffic control procedures at Genève Aéroport are due to change on 30 October 2013, with the introduction of wake turbulence provisions affecting the airport’s capacity for light aviation and helicopters.

Genève Aéroport, which manages the airport platform, and its partner, Skyguide, which is in charge of air traffic control, met today with the platform’s users in the presence of representatives of the Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) in order to provide them with more detailed information on the changes in air traffic control procedures that will take effect on 30 October 2013.

In June 2012, the FOCA decided, following a consultation of those concerned that started in 2005, to enforce the strict application at Genève Aéroport of international procedures regarding wake turbulence.

Wake turbulence is turbulent air that forms behind an aircraft. It can be caused by jet wash or wing-tip and –surface vortices. It makes the air mass unstable and can be a hazard for aircraft entering the area of turbulence. For safety reasons, therefore, a certain amount of time must be allowed to elapse between two movements on the same runway. Because wake turbulence moves, in particular in the presence of wind, the median lines of two parallel runways operated independently must be separated by a distance of 760 metres. The distance between Genève Aéroport’s concrete and grass runways is 250 metres, and movements on the two therefore have to be closely coordinated. Under the new procedure, the lapse of time applied to aircraft moving on both runways will be the same as if they were using one runway.

This change in air traffic control procedures will take effect on 30 October 2013*. In accordance with the rules applied to Swiss international airports, commercial aviation has been given priority, with the result that the capacity for light aviation movements will be limited. The new procedure will also affect helicopter flights. The time periods that remain open for light aviation were communicated to users.
 
The FACO’s decision, dictated by changes in federal legislation, was inevitable given the steady growth in air traffic at Geneva. The provisions relating to wake turbulence are being applied as part of the federal authorities’ stated policy to ensure optimum safety at Swiss airport platforms.

*The FACO’s decision is currently being appealed before the Federal Administrative Tribunal, but is not suspended during the appeal proceedings.