In normal times I’d say «not long ago», but it seems like an eternity ago that London’s main international airport was fighting hard for authorization to build a third runway. It has been announced that the existing volume of operations renders unnecessary to use both existing runways simultaneously.
«COVID-19 has had and continues to have a devastating impact on Heathrow’s operations. As a result, we will consolidate our operations and return to single-runway operations starting Monday, November 9. This means that instead of operating one runway for departures and one runway for arrivals, we will see departures and arrivals on a single runway using mixed-mode operations, «says the statement issued by Heathrow Airport Limited, operator of the terminal.
«Moving to single runway operations will provide safety improvements, such as reducing runway crossings, ensuring that the airport is able to remain open with such minimal aircraft movements. It will also improve our ability to adapt to any reduction in staffing levels either from NATS or our Airfield Operations colleagues as a result of rising COVID-19 levels.»
«Moving to single runway operations will provide security enhancements, such as reducing runway crossings, ensuring the airport can remain open with minimal aircraft movements. It will also enhance our ability to accommodate any reduction in NATS or our colleagues from operations as a result of rising COVID-19 levels. »
The release also indicates that the use of the runways will alternate: «We will be alternating which runway we use on a weekly basis to ensure our local communities continue to get respite periods. Due to the significantly lower number of aircraft operating from the runway, we will also be able to provide alternation on easterly operations – something we can’t currently provide during our usual schedule.»
Similarly, it is also reported that simultaneous operations in some specific circumstances can be conducted: «There may be times when we do need to operate on both runways for a short period of time – mainly when there are peak periods (e.g. if there are a higher number of arrivals in the morning which is normally our busiest time of the day), or if we experience adverse weather conditions. This time of year is when fog and strong winds are most prevalent which can heavily impact our operations.»
Poor weather conditions may mean that the number of departures that can take off each hour must be reduced for safety reasons, along with more space between arriving aircraft: «The knock-on effect of this can lead to flights operating later than usual in order for us to recover from the disruption, and so to mitigate against this, we would look to use both runways during poor weather conditions to prevent further delays and disruption.»
«At present we are not able to predict how long we will need to operate in this way, but we will continue to review this situation and will look to revert to our usual operation when the number of daily aircraft movements significantly increases.»