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Increasing A380 operations at London’s Heathrow Airport show more operational challenges that could also arise at other legacy airports as well.
Approximately 15 A380’s operate into Heathrow airport on a daily basis and this number looks like it may steadily increase in coming months. British Airways alone is taking delivery of more A380’s in the months ahead, with Qatar Airways and Etihad taking deliveries in October and December.
Currently, Heathrow handles the second most A380 flights worldwide with 104 flights weekly.
The UK’s air navigation service provider, NATS, feels that the increase in A380 operations could have a
negative impact on the world’s busiest two-runway international airport.
The largest impact is set to come from the spacing requirements for these giant aircrafts. When an A380 departs, it requires up to 3 minutes of spacing between it and the next aircraft, assuming the following aircraft is a smaller narrow body type. Heathrow typically operates at about 99% of its runway capacity. This 3 minute hold time could have a huge impact on the number of aircrafts that could access the runway per hour.
Greater distances are also needed between traffic on approach as well. Aviation experts explain that Heathrow aims for between 42 and 44 movements per hour and runway. If that figure falls below 36, ops managers might not be able to fit the current daily schedule into one day.
Impacts of the A380 are also seen via the high runway occupancy time for landing run and taxi-off. If a B-747 takes less than one minute to taxi onto the runway, an A380 takes over one minute.
By year 2030, Heathrow officials said they expect to handle up to 60 A380s per day, but there isn’t a plan for just how to handle them with the current running schedule.


Last Thursday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) revealed that it would be revising the rules that govern helicopter certification.  Parts 27 and 29 will be reworked in a way similar to the effort underway to revise Part 23 for airplane certification.

Part 27 addresses certification for helicopters weighing less than or equal to 7,000 pounds, with less than or equal to nine passenger seats.  Any rotorcraft larger than this falls under Part 29, also referred to as the transport category. 

The FAA has been considering this certification change for a while now.  Records show that in February 2013, the FAA actually asked for comments on its proposal in order to move forward with the changes.  The Administration garnered 48 comments that “indicated substantial interest in favor of some form of revision or restructure of the rotorcraft design certification standards,” according to FAA officials. 

Aviation experts feel as though the certification process has remained the same year after year, while technology has continuously changed.  The Helicopter Association International (HAI) commented that rapid advances in technology over the past two decades have challenged current standards.  It is due to these technological developments that many aviation experts believe that this is a prime time to review Parts 27 and 29.  The HAI added that current rules create “unnecessary impediments to the adoption of new technology, unnecessarily increase the costs and delay development of new aircraft designs.”

The FAA hasn’t set a timeline for any upcoming changes but aviation experts do expect the involvement of other agencies like the Transport Canada Civil Aviation and the European Aviation Safety Agency.  Manufacturers are optimistic that any changes to Parts 27 and 29 will enable them to certify new models twice as fast with less cost. 

After rigorous initial testing and 10 years of R&D, Shell’s new lead-free formulation is finally ready.  Shell has officially become the first major oil company to develop a lead-free replacement for aviation gasoline.  The new fuel will now begin a strict regulatory approvals process.           

Avgas is one of the last common transportation fuels that contains lead and is used by light aircrafts and helicopters.  It only includes lead to meet fuel specifications and to boost combustion performance.  To counter these issues, Shell developed an unleaded Avgas that meets all of the key properties needed to achieve an acceptable and exceptional Motor Octane rating. 

Shell’s aviation technologists have carried out intense laboratory programs to ensure that the fuel would pass any regulatory processes needed for approval.  The program included in-house altitude rig and engine testing.  Alliances were formed with aviation companies like Piper Aircraft Inc. and Lycoming Engines to achieve industry opinions and concerns.  Shell was able to have the fuel successfully evaluated in an industry laboratory engine test by Lycoming and flight tests by Piper.

Senior Vice-President and general manager of Lycoming Engines, Michael Kraft, said that Lycoming really commends shell on this launch and achievement.

“They engaged Lycoming to test their fuel on our highest-octane demand engine and we can confirm that it’s remarkably close to Avgas 100LL from a performance perspective,” Kraft said. “This initiative is a major step in the right direction for general aviation.”

Shell is now ready to fully engage the entire aviation industry, regulators and authorities (US Federal Aviation Administration, American Society for Testing and Materials and European Aviation Safety Agency) in order to achieve approvals for their unleaded gas.

On December 7, Bangladesh Biman Airlines said that it would pull from service what is believed to be the last McDonnell Douglas DC-10 still carrying passengers.            

The McDonnell Douglas DC-10 originally entered service in 1971, flying passengers between Los Angeles and Chicago.  The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) once grounded the entire fleet of DC-10’s for more than one month after a crash where an engine separated from the airframe during its takeoff run.

The landmark move on behalf of Biman is part of routine commercial service.  Aviation experts and fans are hoping that they will have at least one more chance to fly on the craft…and they might just get their wish.

The big jet is primarily used for cargo carriers, like FedEx.  The major airline said however, that fans and experts interested in flying on a passenger version of the airplane will get their chance to live out their dream in February 2014.  Biman plans on making seats available on the jet for a final flight from Bangladesh to England.

In the event that interest persists, some scenic flights may be flown from England, as long as enthusiasm encourages this.

McDonnell Douglas produced its last DC-10 in 1989 after a run of nearly 450 examples.