View Full Version : Interminable taxiing
Dont Hang Up
27th Mar 2012, 07:13
I travelled Frankfurt to Madrid yesterday. The flying time was just under two hours. Ramp to ramp time two and a half hours!
This is not exceptional. Arriving at that far distant runway at Schiphol, the seasoned traveller knows it's time for a couple more chapters of their book before there is any chance of disembarking.
For short haul flights, adding twenty or even thirty minutes for taxiing is a big deal and yet it seems it does not feature in any aspect of airport planning or air traffic control. In building their extra runways at a ridiculous distance from the terminals Frankfurt and Schiphol clearly demonstrate that capacity is all that matters. Customer convenience does not feature.
Rant over but surely I am not alone? Don't even flight crews get seriously irritated by this?
27th Mar 2012, 07:19
Certainly Amsterdam's Polden(?) runway is some distance away and you can miss a couple of trains into the city centre if you land there.
Frankfurt's not that bad though.
27th Mar 2012, 07:49
LHR - The distance isn't so great, but the congestion more than makes up for it. I expect as routine about 30 mins taxi time for departure and on average that seems to be about right. Arrival... your guess is as good as mine! We arrived late once after an extended flight time, and then discovered that our stand was occupied by a Tech aircraft from another carrier and no alternatives. Sat on brakes and waited with hot bits running hot for 50 mins - total taxi time 70 mins. Stand changed late so no equipment in position as we arrived - further 10 mins.
LHR can break your heart if you let it - An incident as described above or in the OP post will undo all and any good work done in the cabin as customers have to watch their Transport/Meeting/Appointment get buggered up.
27th Mar 2012, 08:04
Not even to mention all the added pollution from taxiing/ queue-ing aircraft! That's another thing that's overlooked when planning/ building airports and runways.
27th Mar 2012, 09:07
Well, the new runway in FRA is only for landing, not for taking off. Therefore your flight didn't use that one. And yes, it is somewhat aggravating to taxy that long, but there is no comparison between AMS and FRA there, the frankfurt one is much closer to the terminals and since taxi times are not that bad.
Madrid on the other hand, oh what a mess. That airport is surely one of the worst designed ones served by the most incompetent air traffic control service in europe. The mix is highly dangerous and leads to even longer taxi times than necessary.
27th Mar 2012, 09:49
Back in about 1985, leaving Cairo, the taxi out to take off was so long and the temperature so high that we sat at the end of the runway for 5 or 10 minutes for things to cool a bit before take off.
27th Mar 2012, 11:28
I recall a departure from JFK a few years ago, from push to turning onto the active was 50 minutes. These problems get ignored by those who prevent the building of new runways.
27th Mar 2012, 22:36
These problems get ignored by those who prevent the building of new runways.
A shortage of runway capacity certainly doesn't help, but a shortage, or inefficient use, of gates probably also contributes. It can feel frustrating when the captain comes over the PA saying "we are all set to go, but ATC won't let us start engines for another ten minutes", but that is probably less expensive overall than running the engines whilst stopped on a taxiway for those ten minutes.
Other than vacating gates, is there any good reason why startup should not be delayed until there will be no more than a couple of aircraft in the queue when one reaches the runway?
Taking the idea a bit further, is there any good reason why shorthaul flights cannot be held on the ground at their departure points rather than spending time in a hold at their destination? It often seems as if the last 20 miles from MAN to LHR takes as long as the first 150.
And why not re-open the existing third runway at LHR to reduce queueing times? Or is it really needed as parking space?
27th Mar 2012, 23:44
The last '3rd runway' at LHR cannot be reopened for two reasons. Firstly: T4! But it was closed because it only provided very small benefits. It ran at a diagonal across the the main runways. If you use it - you automatically cannot use the two mains, thus defeating it's use.
It was used in the last years for some short haul flights in strong cross wind, but that's all.
28th Mar 2012, 04:17
The existing 3rd runway is all but dug up these days. Some bits of it are taxy ways and others, stands.
A-CDM has now come in at LHR. It already exists at several European airfields such as CDG, FRA etc. To ease congestion at holding points, aircraft are issued a TSAT or target start up time, based on there EOBT (estimated off blocks time). With a local 'fudge' factor for airport specific bottle necks, the crew call up for start at the allocated TSAT and get underway. Sometimes TSAT is STD, other times it's 12 mins after etc. It depends on the local fudge factor and any other enroute capacity delays (slots).
Many carriers taxi in on single engine after a cool down period of apron 2 mins. Some carriers even taxi out on one engine. Depends on type and operator. At 120 USD per barrel, airlines are doing every thing to save fuel.
As an earlier poster asked, why not hold aircraft on the ground rather than in the air, far beter co-ordination is being seen in this area, expect more as time goes on. Many flight get speed or level capped to sequence arriving aircraft early on. Sometimes very early on into a flight. FRA is a good example.
Dont Hang Up
29th Mar 2012, 06:29
Well, the new runway in FRA is only for landing, not for taking off
Well indeed. The trip back from Madrid to Frankfurt landed on the new runway in the Westerly direction! :ugh:
Where is the reasoning in this? A good view of the city I grant you. Or on the left side you can enjoy a nice view of the terminal buildings passing by five hundred feet below. But you are still over a mile from the touchdown point and then you can add the entire roll-out distance to taxi back.
30th Mar 2012, 20:42
I don't think it's that that much quicker at FRA if you land on 25L instead of the more westerly located 25R. They no longer allow mid runway crossings (of 25C), so upon vacating 25L you taxi all the way West to cross clear of 25C and then all the way back East to the gate (which can be the entire runway length depending on the gate). On my last 25L arrival a couple of weeks ago it took 13 minutes and that was to a mid point gate. Coincidentally that day, I was in transit to AMS and we landed on the Polderbaan. Taxi time to the gate was 11 minutes.
2nd Apr 2012, 05:02
I got a free flight in Australia and a polite letter, all for being prepared to de-plane, wait in a dark corner of LAX for 30 min while they found some buses, and be bussed out to what felt like "launch pad 39A for blast off", because the 747 was overweight and they felt they could taxi to the start of the runway and have less tire-cooling time if they got 40 of us off the seats.
Standing next to one of these birds on a runway and walking up a temporary ladder was a golden moment: I felt like I'd stepped back in time 20y when arrivals in Brisbane were to a giant Nissen hut and you deplaned on foot all the time. Wish I'd had a camera to snap those lights winking into the distance..
Longest taxi time for me was at JFK, just over 1 hour from gate to lining up.
Just busy plus a big meeting at the UN so all the government flights taking priority.
2nd Apr 2012, 20:08
JARVY, I think that we're talking about non-stop taxi times here. The JFK scenario is quite common but that's nothing to do with distance to the runway from the gate, but more to do with being number 35 for departure - for which reason I agree you do sometimes by default get a tour of JFK.
For ATC it is a balancing act.
On the one hand you shouldn't have too many departures started and taxying out for the reasons you mention (taxi time, noise, emissions, waste of fuel etc).
On the other hand, at a capacity constrained airport like LHR, we need to get aircraft off the gates to allow inbounds to park, and to make best use of the runway capacity, the departures controller needs a handful of aircraft at teh runway holding point to ensure a good mix of traffic (i.e. left, right and 'straight aheads' which, if traffic flying in one direction is followed by traffic going in another, can all depart 1 minute apart). The very worst thing we can do is to be delaying aircraft on stand and there to be wasted capacity at the departure runway.
Same reasoning exists inbound, to ensure that no capacity is wasted on the arrival runway, and to ensure that Heathrow Approach have a selection of traffic to get the best order for landing, if there are delays then we try to have a few aircraft holding in the stacks.
As to holding on the ground instead of picking up long delays at the destination airport, this occurs already. However, given all the variables, it is a very blunt tool. The already referred-to CDM will help in making the predicted airborne time far more accurate than before, which allows for more accurate traffic forecasts, which allow for fewer restrictions being in place.
3rd Apr 2012, 12:22
Jarvey & Hotel Tango
I also have had 1hr plus taxi at JFK on a number of times in summer. The reason I was told by a pilot who flies in there often is commonly bad weather with summer storms to the west of NYC limiting routes causing ATC issues.
20th Apr 2012, 16:47
We once flew Valencia - LHR, via Madrid. We were over an hour late out of Valencia, meaning the longish break at Madrid was beginning to look more like a missed connection. I am an occasional hobby pilot, and reckon the pilot was going as fast in the air as he could, more power than usual, beginning descent later, almost the equivalent of hurtling full throttle to the traffic lights, then braking heavily at the last moment.
We landed, then set off on a ground tour of what felt like most of Spain. Taxy speed seemed somewhat higher than usual, to the point where my daughter asked if we were taking off again. "Not intentionally", I said.
Eventually, we came to a stand, and were herded off by the crew before anyone without a connection, onto a bus, which took us to a vast terminal with no working information screens. When we found someone to ask, they sent us back down to the bus, still there, and off we went for another scenic drive.
At the next terminal, we ran up the stairs, and heard our names being called on the tannoy. Our flight was boarding at Gate 38d. We were at Gate 1a. We eventually arrived, breathless, to be waved past all security, and back on the same bus, which had dropped us off then driven along the road. Until then, I had always assumed that the red-faced passengers arriving at the gate at the last minute, as seen on TV programs, had been in the pub.
Another cruise around the airport eventually brought us ... back to the same plane. The steward apologised - there had been a change of crew, and he didn't know he was going on to LHR. The rest of the passengers looked daggers at us, thinking we had been in the pub.
We taxyed, via Barcelona and Seville, back to the runway, and took off. Memorable.:)
20th Apr 2012, 17:41
Mr Mac, believe me, regardless of weather 1 hr taxi at JFK is quite the norm at certain peak times. When weather comes into play it can be as much as 90mins. :)
20th Apr 2012, 17:55
For short haul flights, adding twenty or even thirty minutes for taxiing is a big deal and yet it seems it does not feature in any aspect of airport planning or air traffic control.
I cannot speak for air traffic controllers but I can speak for architects. Naturally, as with any other building type, there is no set qualification in "airport design" - you train 7 years first as an architect or transport planner, then you work your way into an up a firm that specialises in the area.
There are very few firms out there that are genuine experts in designing airports - I would say Fentress are the leading practice, and from the UK Fosters have experience with at least four major projects (STN, LHR2, HKG & BJS3) - but the less said about Boris Island the better!
Runway position and direction is, of course, a very major component of airport design, but that doesn't mean the airport or the operators always get their own way. A runway goes where it can, not always where it is most operationally effective, as that will often mean knocking down a lot more houses.
If you want the ideal, you have to start with a clean sheet, miles away from any settlements, and with enough cheap land to do as you please. The Saudis have a number of such airports, RUH being the most prominent example, but it still only has 2 parallel runways and only enough traffic to justify one.
So surely the airport which has had the best opportunity for optimal runway layout, whilst still being a Top 10 player, is Denver? Observe the pin wheel layout from above and how aircraft can land and taxi without getting in the way of each other. Some see a sinister meaning in it, but operationally it works - unless any pilots here would challenge that?
In building their extra runways at a ridiculous distance from the terminals Frankfurt and Schiphol clearly demonstrate that capacity is all that matters. Customer convenience does not feature.
I disagree - capacity alone is useless unless you have the route network and the supply of punters to use it. Hub airports will always chase after these routes as each extra spoke on the wheel then enables connections to all the other spokes on top, so it is a case of critical mass.
More destinations is also better for the o&d traffic too. Personally, I have no problem with landing out in the Polders, I love the sense of flying into the neatly ordered Dutch landscape, but I'll leave the rest of that to JB!
I see AMS as offering the following rule of thumb:
20 mins - taxi and reach gate (worst case)
20 mins - walk (very slowly) to passport control and collect bag
20 mins - train to either Amsterdam, the Hague (30 odd) or Rotterdam (27)
+ 2 hours max - just about anywhere else in NL
+ another hour or so - other major cities in neighbouring countries.
(all above are ish, no need to get timetables out)
Overall, I'd say that's a great experience. The terminal is vast, but it gets everything together under one roof. Can't say too much for FRA except that it too offers great surface access throughout much of Germany.
DEN on the other hand - which does have the optimal runway layout, is terribly connected to the city it serves. As you'd expect, the drive takes forever, and as for the train, well that's not arriving until 2015.
Now you don't need any lessons in architecture to work out that's what we call a FAIL!
20th Apr 2012, 22:31
Tony Killeen That is a FABULOUS story and I hope you consider the extra exercise to have been a healthy addition to your trip!
Welcome to PPRuNe!! :ok:
25th Apr 2012, 21:13
I recall departing with LH from JFK and the steward across from my seat (emergency exit) told me that they sometimes taxi for 1-2 hours. One hour is almost normal in the evening at JFK, which is why EWR becomes more interesting for many. Can be quite long coming in as well, especially when TSA didn't clear the plane to deboard. Not unusual to hear "we are number 28 for takeoff". Nice to sit in business on those occasions...
Skipness One Echo
26th Apr 2012, 02:24
And why not re-open the existing third runway at LHR to reduce queueing times? Or is it really needed as parking space?
It's physically not there anymore. The new Terminal 2 is being built where it used to be.
26th Apr 2012, 03:25
Towards the end of its life, Use of Runway 23 used to actually increase delays, as we would lose stand capacity and taxiway flexibility.