Airports looking to increase capacity are now presented with a bewildering range of potential enablers from new Rapid Exit Taxiways through airspace change to new sequencing tools and advanced lighting solutions. Whilst each airport will need to carefully evaluate the potential benefits and order of these enablers two key issues need to be considered:
a) The key to maximising airfield capacity is integration; as traffic grows the interactions between different process becomes more critical
b) Whilst this integration is achieved by system interoperability it has a profound effect on the ATCO role.

Successful implementation requires a transition plan that supports both system integration and ATC role evolution. This is the true benefit of the latest integrated Controller Work Positions (iCWP) – they create the best base line for the future.

Traditional towers have become cluttered as equipment and instructions are added

An airport attempting to maximise airfield capacity, moving perhaps from 48 to 55 movements per hour on a single runway might consider the following transition:

Step 1) Implement iCWP including Electronic Flight Strips, A-SMGCS and integrated Airfield Ground Lighting. Use the data from operating iCWP to analyse and improve current operations and develop the transition plan.

Step 2) Focus on improving ground capacity and reducing variability in taxi times. Experience has shown that choke points in the taxiway system can limit benefits of the advanced concepts that increase runway capacity. The enablers here are DMAN, A-SMGCS routing, advanced taxiway lighting such as virtual block control and follow the greens. This is a useful step as the ATCOs get used to the increased automation.

Step 3) Focus on the arrival sequence. The issue is to control, and for single use runways minimise, the interarrival time. The benefit from wake tools is very dependent on the traffic mix and wind – for some airports EU RECAT Pairwise maybe as beneficial as Time Based Separation – with iCWP but both enable the approach controller and runway controller to be presented with a Arrival Spacing Tool; more precision from the approach controller, more anticipation from the runway controller.

Step 4) Focus on interleaving arrivals and departures. This step has  potentially the biggest capacity growth – it involves integrating AMAN/DMAN using the knowledge of the arrival sequence to optimise the departure sequence. This requires real integration between terminal, approach and runway so that arrival gaps can be adjusted to maintain the departure sequence.

Step 5) Focus on airspace. Airspace comes last because it is most important and most difficult to change. The key is control and repeatability – so that local impacts can be minimised using concentration or dispersal according to community requirements. iCWP can support monitoring of airspace use and additional safety nets for advanced airspace concepts that reduce separation minima to increase capacity of current noise preferential routes.

ICWP provides a modern working environment suitable for enabling advanced concepts

Whatever the transition path, the early adoption of iCWP is the best first step to facilitating ATC modernisation. At each step, the new operating environment created by iCWP enables new concepts to be integrated within the operational concept quicker and at lower cost in terms of both system integration, operational approval and controller training.


  • Maribel Tomás Rocha

Maribel Tomás Rocha is a Consultant at Think Research focussing on ATM modernisation, regulation and operational approval. Within Think, Maribel leads the ATM regulatory and policy portfolio.

Maribel Tomás Rocha
  • Paul Ravenhill - Director Think

Paul Ravenhill is a Director at Think Research with 30 years’ experience  supporting ATM modernisation initiatives.

Paul Ravenhill