Lonely Planet Writer

Planes face speed limits in order to reduce stacking delays

A new move to avoid the present level of aircraft stacking in the skies over airports could see speed limits being set on planes so that they can arrive for landing without facing long delays.

Planes re-routed to avoid military exercises along China's southern coast. Image by Frank Kovalchek / CC BY 2.0
Planes currently often have to stack while they wait their turn for clearance to land at airports. Image by Frank Kovalchek / CC BY 2.0

Ending the ‘holding pattern’ where flights are forced to circle around areas near airports until slots open up can be done quite easily by air traffic services telling pilots 350 miles away to slow down. The hope is that that radius will be extended to 550 miles and eventually up to 1000 miles away.

The MailOnline reports that by ending the holding time, passengers would arrive on time as a matter of course.

The head of the UK’s National Air Traffic Services (NATS), Martin Rolfe, said the introduction of a ‘variable speed limit of the skies’ would be based on technology similar to that being currently used on motorways to make traffic slow down.

He said that if there was a risk of a major jam, British air traffic controllers would alert planes and get them to reduce their speed to arrive at an exact time.

NATS is already working with air traffic controllers in France, Holland and Ireland in its attempt to control the arrival of planes. It hopes to spread its wings into Scandinavia with a similar system for controllers there.

Speaking at an aviation conference in London, Mr Rolfe, said the offshoot of the elimination of stacking would be less fuel waste and a reduction in aircraft noise over built up areas of cities.