Why is ATC at Heathrow so inefficient

I just wanted to understand why when ever Heathrow is involved in the ATC schedule on expert server, how come controllers always use two runways for both arrivals and departures. It’s proven to be very inefficient because departing planes may have to hold short for long periods when aircrafts are Landing and it can cause Many go arounds When ATC tries fitting in departing planes between arrivals. I think it would be better if each individual runway was only used for departures and the other only for arrivals. This is how it’s done in real life and I can’t see why we can’t implement this in infinite flight. It would allow for continuous departures and continuous arrivals on each runway, vastly improving efficiency whilst bring more realism to the game.

7 Likes

Just wanted to point something out.

In IF, sometimes you can’t use the real world procedures. You have to use with whatever gets the traffic running smoothly

2 Likes

No, when Heathrow was involved in the atc schedule in the past, I had this problem, but it does also happen on trading server

1 Like

This doesn’t work better in the air. As much as I support realistic procedures at Heathrow, aircraft from all directions are way easier to vector in onto 2 parallel runways than just one. Take Dublin for example when it was recently featured, it took 1 hour in the approach line with so little departures, however Heathrow takes way less with the use of 2 runways

1 Like

We don’t always follow real-life procedures because it can cause more harm and trouble for the controllers. If they find something to be more efficient then it would be better for them.

Also In real life they have done this for noise restrictions which isn’t a problem in Infinite Flight.

1 Like

Additionally, IFATC is required to use all available runways, especially at times of high traffic, which EGLL usually gets when it’s featured.

Edit: Please see below for the direct statement from the IFATC manual.

ALL available runways should be used – one runway for departures and another runway for arrivals should be avoided if possible. Controllers may however, be exposed to an airport where terrain, airport layout or weather prevents ALL runways from being used; in this case it is acceptable to not use ALL runways (if there are any doubts as to what strategy should be used, Controllers should raise this with a Supervisor or above for guidance).

2 Likes

IFATC is trained to use all available runways for maximum efficiency, so this is why we use two runways at EGLL for arrivals as well as departures.

It’s not really inefficient, and it has to do with the pilots too. We usually try to fit in departing aircraft between arrivals, and clear them for takeoff as soon as the arriving aircraft vacated the runway. Sometimes, some inexperienced pilots fly at 200 knots on final, which results in them having to go around.

Per the IFATC manual,

ALL available runways should be used – one runway for departures and another runway for arrivals should be avoided if possible. Controllers may however, be exposed to an airport where terrain, airport layout or weather prevents ALL runways from being used; in this case it is acceptable to not use ALL runways (if there are any doubts as to what strategy should be used, Controllers should raise this with a Supervisor or above for guidance).


Usually, when EGLL is featured, it tends to attract lots of pilots due to its popularity, and we have to make sure that we get aircrafts onto the ground (and into the air) as fast as possible.

1 Like

Your only thinking about this from the perspective of arriving planes. If you were departing from Heathrow In the past when it was on the ATC schedule you know the pain of how long the waiting times for departure were. If controllers looked at Heathrow’s Real life charts and made planes do 360 degree turns in the right place according to STAR they’re deciding via, I bet there would less chaos in the sky and planes would arrive just as quickly as if they used two runways for arrivals.

Let’s not forget that in real life, controllers are trained at Heathrow for MANY years and they have figured out their best way to run it.

On IF, that’s simply not the case. A lot of controllers are learning on the fly and as experience at that airport gets better, so will the quality and efficiency.

10 Likes

Funnily enough, when I was in IFATC I had the same exact line of reasoning as you and tested it out. Guess what? You’re right.

DA MATH:

2 runways:

5-6 nm separation to allow for departures would mean about 63 arrivals per hour.

1 Runway:

3 nm separation due to not having to fit in departures on the arrival runway would mean about 75 arrivals per hour.

Ground Control:

Heathrow has taxiways designed in such a way that a flow in either a northern or southern flow would eliminate ground conflict.

image

And from a departures standpoint, this is much more efficient as you can use anticipated separation to shoot of departures without the risk of go arounds.


Sure, this works in theory but what about in practice? I controlled approach at Heathrow two hours peak time during an event with 100+ people on a Saturday and yes, it works. HOWEVER, you do need to consider some other factors. One, the approach controller has to be competent enough in order to manipulate spacing down to the nautical mile. Two, the number of arrivals per hour must be above 75 or there will be more benefit.

And of course there is the ever prevalent issue of the holy texts, the manual. The great book of guidance states:

ALL available runways should be used – one runway for departures and another runway for arrivals should be avoided if possible. Controllers may however, be exposed to an airport where terrain, airport layout or weather prevents ALL runways from being used; in this case it is acceptable to not use ALL runways (if there are any doubts as to what strategy should be used, Controllers should raise this with a Supervisor or above for guidance).

I did take it with a supervisor or above, the highest it can go, Mr. Tyler Shelton. His response was that this is an ok thing to do as long as you prepare this strategy in advance and have the skillset to control spacing efficeintly.

One thing you will want to note is that Heathrow doesn’t utilize this due to efficiency, but due to noise restrictions. My personal theory is that they don’t have to deal with our traffic levels so it doesn’t make sense to do so for that small benefit.

TLDR: If you’re skilled enough as a radar controller you can make it happen. If you’re not at that skill level or if there’s not consistently more than 75 arrivals per hour then use two runways.

35 Likes

To the first set of numbers, I agree. No one should be using 5-6nm spacing at EGLL, that’s far too big. You’ll have a terrible time getting anything done with that huge of a spacing gap. 3-5nms works perfectly fine. Tower would really need to be performing poorly to require that much spacing. 3nms if there’s a gap in departures and 4-5nms throughout.

If the arrivals per hour number for 3-5nms is anywhere close to the single runway 75 arrivals per hour, number, then using one runway doesn’t make much sense.

The minimal efficiency bonus, if there even is one, doesn’t come anywhere close to the obvious issue of having to deal with the numerous conflicts on arrival.

We aren’t real world controllers at London Heathrow, or have a team specifically assigned and trained to control at EGLL. The pilots who are arriving or departing are not highly skilled and trained real world pilots. We don’t follow noise ambiance restrictions in Infinite Flight currently. But if using one runway for departures and arrivals works then it works, but it doesn’t seem to work as well in our scenario.

7 Likes

To your IFATC supervisor, sure, but not to the average controller. If I were a specialist and you told me to make do with 3 nm I would laugh.

3nms with no departures, so basically an open runway. Not 3nms if you had anyone holding short or a queue. There’s normally numerous lulls if Tower is doing well.

I know everyone says because IF has too much traffic they can’t do realistic procedures sometimes

My opinion is I think they should at least actually try to have more effort to do this. Everyone uses that reason to not do realistic procedures like they do not even use any effort to do realistic procedures. Even if there is low traffic they use this reason to not do realistic procedures
More effort should be used to do realistic procedures.
And I think IFATC should try to study the normal airport procedures before controlling somewhere

Miscommunication, it’s 3nm WITH departures. Heathrow with peak traffic isn’t really going to have lulls in the departure sequence and tower can only do so much with so little spacing.

When I control radar at LHR I always think about it if I should use one runway or both runways and I always decide to use both runways in the end.
The first reason for it is that in Infinite Flight there usually are more landings than departures so it makes sense to use all runways to get everyone down safely and with a not too big delay.
If you look at single runway airports like TNCM for example you will always see a huge approach pattern around the airport which causes a long delay for every aircraft. These pattern is required because there is a lot of traffic at peak hours especially if the airport is featured during an FNF or at the weekend.
The second reason is that they also use both runways for landings during the main landing time in the morning (especially pre COVID) so it’s not even unrealistic as there are if there isn’t a fly out event always more landings than departures at the Hub airport in Infinite Flight as I already mentioned above.
And normally one runway will have tight spacing between arrivals during the peak hours (usually 27R because most of the departures want 27L if 27s are in use) and the other runway will have more spacing to get the departures out.
That way it works well for the Infinite Flight traffic and with both runways being used for arrivals it is also easier for the approach controller as you don’t need to watch that every plane has exactly 3NM spacing to the plane ahead then.

2 Likes

Before people just jump to the conclusion that using one runway is inefficient, look at the layout and design of Heathrow first, it’s designed to work this way.

1 Like

Yes but while can cause a benefit to departures, it causes a huge delay for arrivals.

For math it’s more efficient to use 1 runway for each, but, think about an arrival makes his way into the approach, if 1 runway for landing is used this aircraft will delay his approach for twice the time if not more and it’s not ideal.
Also using 1 runway will cause multiple pattern legs added because of the large amount of traffic and make the STARs useless.

1 Like

My whole point is the STARS at Heathrow aren’t being utilised to their full potential, and that’s why we can’t use a single landing runway efficiently

EGLL isn’t efficient with Atc and it takes the same time to land at EGLL as OMDB for example the controllers are trying their best to move traffic as efficiently as possible .