Wake Turbulence Re-Categorization Comes to Louisville
Friday, September 06, 2013

Monday will bring a whole new set of wake turbulence separation rules to Standiford Tower/TRACON (SDF) in Louisville, Ky. According to NATCA's Wake Turbulence Re-Categorization (RECAT) Representative Scott Pressley, training at SDF is currently taking place before the changes take effect.

Training consists of half of a day in a classroom learning the new separation standards followed by time in a radar simulator to “get controllers minds wrapped around the new wake turbulence separation standards,” said Pressley.

More facilities will begin training within the next six months, including Miami, Northern California TRACON (NCT) and Cincinnati.  Several towers in the Miami and Northern California areas will also receive RECAT training to coincide with the trainings at the TRACONs.

RECAT must be implemented at both a tower and TRACON as the new separation standard is for all departing and arriving aircraft.  Departure controllers are typically the first ones to see the positive impact of the new separation standards, as they are able to clear aircraft for takeoff more rapidly.

According to Pressley, facilities must demonstrate a need for RECAT.  Typically that is determined by facilities with large concentrations of heavy and large aircraft categories, especially when those aircraft arrive and depart in a condensed time frame.  

“Those are the airports we go to the most,” said Pressley.

Both Miami and NCT have a sizeable amount of large and heavy international aircraft landing in their airspace so it is anticipated that implementing RECAT in those areas will be very beneficial.

Due to the large amount of FedEx and UPS cargo aircraft operating out of the two airports, Memphis Tower/TRACON (MEM) is operating with RECAT wake turbulence separation standards, and SDF has been chosen to be the next implementation site.

According to Pressley, FedEx reports monthly savings of $1.3 million because of RECAT alone, as MEM controllers are able to clear 99 departures and arrivals per hour as compared to 77 before RECAT.

“It’s a way for the busier airports to safely compact the final to move the aircraft closer together,” said Pressley.

The implementation of RECAT also affects the information controllers see on their flight strips.  The aircraft category has been added to the flight strip to aid controllers in sequencing aircraft for arrivals and departures.  RECAT was also designed to work well with Automated Terminal Proximity Alert (ATPA).  Although it is not mandatory for facilities to utilize ATPA, it is a tool that will add the amount of separation needed to the aircraft’s flight strip.  As a result, ATPA will help increase efficiency of controllers as they sequence aircraft.

“It is the intent to have both RECAT and ATPA available to all of the facilities that get RECAT,” said Pressley. “Louisville is the first place they’ll be used together.”

Not all facilities will see RECAT wake turbulence separation standards.  Phase one, which is currently being implemented, was designed to be applied at limited facilities.

“RECAT was not intended to be the wake turbulence separation at all facilities,” added Pressley.

He went on to explain that phase two of RECAT will be available to more facilities however, as it can be somewhat customized to a facility’s needs.

“[RECAT is] affecting the whole country already,” said Pressley.  “Everybody in the end is going to see a benefit from it.”

For more information about wake turbulence re-categorization, please click HERE.