Question for ATC experts regarding EGLC low visibility

Hi,

I’m currently sat on board a BA E190 at LIRF/FCO, which we boarded 45 mins late and have now been told by the captain that we have another 1h10 to wait before we can go. Apparently there is low visibility at EGLC, and the inbound flow has been restricted to 6 aircraft per hour.

I was wondering if any of the resident ATC experts could explain why such enormous separations are needed, even in low visibility conditions? From experience aircraft inbound on 09 are off the runway within a minute of touchdown, so while the back-taxi requirement and the fact it is a single-runway airport obviously reduces the flow rate compared to larger fields, one landing every 10 minutes seems excessively separated. What else is in play to require such gaps?

Any ideas or insights?

Thanks,
Jon

Traffic might be reduced even more due to the fact that EGLC has a steep approach angle of 5 degrees instead of the usual 3. It also might be that EGLC is near multiple tall buildings, making IFR approaches more difficult and dangerous. I don’t know much on how EGLC is operated, but that’s my inference.

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Reducing inbounds to one every 10 mins, seems drastic, indeed.
i did some searching on this to find out how fog influences air travel. All articles mention that fog does indeed cause delays, but don’t tell me why. On the ground, where much is done visually, increased spacing makes sense. But with most of the flying done on radar (IFR), it does make you wonder why fog triggers this giant increase in spacing, especially in the air.

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I wondered if it might be to allow for go-arounds or something, so that an aircraft that had to pull out of the approach would be able to come back round and try again without a long line of traffic to have to get behind. When we arrived it seemed like there wasn’t fog really, but more very very low cloud cover - we only came out of the clouds as we passed the ExCeL exhibition centre, which is only about 1km from the 09 threshold, so I can imagine we might have been pushing the minimums.

Complete chaos at the airport - very few planes on the ground, unusual for LCY at 6pm, and most flights cancelled. Huge numbers of people in the terminal being redirected, but on a Friday night I can imagine it would have been a challenge to rebook them on other flights (there didn’t seem to be anything in place to divert everything into Southend or anything). Very glad to have made it back without having to make a long ground journey from Southend, Gatwick or Heathrow, given I live only 10-15 mins from LCY.

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The flow rate is a complicated formula and there are a lot of moving parts. For one thing, not all aircraft are created equal in terms of landing capability, so the flow rate is in part dictated by how many aircraft have the necessary equipment and approvals for landing. The same goes for takeoff. Crew require specific training to depart in low visibility. I have had flights where the decision was made at the departure airport to cancel the flight even though weather there was crystal clear at departure point. So this naturally filters out some of the inbound volume. ATC also have to account for far slower operations on the airport, not just in terms of landing on the runway but getting off and taxiing to a gate. In some instances a safety car is required to escort aircraft to the gate (unusual).

Add to this the requirement for aircraft to be able to fly to an alternate. If the weather is bad and there are only one or two available alternates you can just imagine the chaos that might ensue if all of a sudden dozens of aircraft have to divert to the alternate! So flow restrictions are put in place to ensure such an event does not occur. This requires a large amount of coordination between airlines operations departments and ATC, so it’s complicated.

I used to fly the Q400 for an ailrine. Not in the LCY part of the world but I used to train pilots on the aircraft.

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