Potential Wake Turbulence Encounters Analysis in Current and NextGen Flight Operations (2013)

With an increasing population of super heavy aircraft operating in the National Airspace System and with the introduction of NextGen technologies, the wake vortex problem has become more important for airport capacity and the en-route air traffic operations. The vortices generated by heavy and super heavy aircraft can generate potential hazards to other aircraft on nearby flight paths. Moreover, the design of new airport procedures needs to consider the interactions between aircraft in closer paths. New methods and models are required to examine these effects before new operations are conducted in the National Airspace System (NAS). Reducing wake vortex separations to safe levels between successive aircraft is essential for NextGen operations. One approach taken recently by ICAO and the FAA is to introduce a re-categorization (RECAT) of wake vortex separations to six groups from the existing five groups employed by the FAA in the United States. Reduced aircraft separations can increase capacity in the (NAS) with corresponding savings in delay times at busy airports. Future Nextgen operations are likely to introduce smaller aircraft separations in the enroute and in the terminal area. Such operations would require better methods to identify potential wake hazards from reduced separation operations. This paper describes a simulation-based approach to identify potential wake encounters in the future NAS. The goal of the paper is to describe the Wake Encounter Model (WEM), a model that employs a detailed NASA-developed wake model to generate wake zones for different aircraft categories under different flight conditions that can be used with aircraft flight path data to identify potential wake encounters. The main contribution of this model is to gain an understanding of potential wake encounters under future NAS operations.