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Wake Turbulence Re-categorisation, or Wake RECAT, is the safe decrease in separation standards between certain aircraft.


The current International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) wake vortex separation rules are based solely on aircraft weight and categorised as Heavy, Medium, or Light. However, these rules are now outdated and lead to over-separation, reducing airport capacity and causing unnecessary delays and increased costs. For example, both the Boeing 747 and 767 are categorised as "Heavy" aircraft, resulting in standard separation distances being excessive in some cases. To safely reduce the separation distance, both the wake vortex generated by the leading aircraft and the following aircraft's resistance to it must be taken into consideration.

The ICAO categorisation of aircraft has been considered inadequate by many National Aviation Authorities, leading to regional variations in categories and separation standards. The introduction of the Airbus A380 and wake vortex turbulence concerns led to an ICAO-supervised joint study with experts from Airbus, FAA, EUROCONTROL, and JAA/EASA. The resulting Airbus A380 Wake Vortex Guidance was published in 2008, and the RECAT programme was introduced after over 180 hours of flight testing and research.


After extensive research, experts concluded that the required separation between certain aircraft could be safely decreased by considering other aircraft characteristics such as speed and wingspan, in addition to weight.


The RECAT-EU 6-category scheme was introduced, re-assigning aircraft to one of six new categories (A through F) based on redefining the transition weight between the old categories, adding a Super category, and splitting each of the Medium and Heavy categories into two new ones.

The RECAT programme allows for more efficient and safe use of airport capacity by reducing unnecessary separation distances between aircraft while still ensuring safety. By considering multiple factors instead of just weight, it can lead to reduced delays, fuel burn, and emissions.

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Benefits of RECAT

The benefits of Wake Turbulence Re-categorization (RECAT) can be significant in enhancing aviation safety and increasing airspace capacity. Here are some key advantages:

Enhanced Safety

By re-categorizing aircraft based on their wake turbulence characteristics, air traffic controllers can apply more precise separation standards. This reduces the risk of encountering hazardous wake turbulence, particularly for smaller aircraft following larger ones. Enhanced safety measures minimize the potential for accidents caused by wake encounters.

Increased Capacity

Traditional separation standards based solely on aircraft weight and size often result in conservative spacing between aircraft, leading to reduced airspace capacity. RECAT allows for more flexible separation criteria, allowing aircraft to operate more closely together. This increases the efficiency of airspace utilization and enables airports to handle more traffic, ultimately improving capacity and reducing delays.


Improved Efficiency

With RECAT, aircraft can be re-categorized into additional wake turbulence categories. By tailoring separation standards according to these categories, airports can optimize runway throughput and sequencing, leading to more efficient operations. This, in turn, reduces fuel consumption, emissions, and overall operating costs.

Enhanced Flexibility

RECAT provides the flexibility to adjust separation standards dynamically based on real-time conditions. Air traffic controllers can adapt spacing requirements based on factors like wind conditions, aircraft performance, and wake decay characteristics. This flexibility allows for more efficient routing, reduced diversions, and improved flow management.

Improved Access

Smaller aircraft, previously subject to conservative separation standards, can benefit from RECAT by being assigned reduced spacing requirements. This enables increased access to congested airports and allows for better integration of general aviation and regional aircraft into the overall air traffic system.


In summary, Wake Turbulence Re-categorization offers numerous benefits, including enhanced safety, increased airspace capacity, improved operational efficiency, greater flexibility, and improved access for smaller aircraft.


These advantages contribute to a more optimized and streamlined air traffic management system.

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Contact RAKL Avi today to learn more about how RECAT can benefit your airport and passengers.


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