3 Links I Love: Remote Air Traffic Control, Heating Runways, an Airline to Make You Appreciate the US Carriers

Links I Love

Sorry for the delay this morning. It helps if I remember to actually schedule it to publish…

This week’s featured link:
Controlling An Airport From 80 Miles AwayTom Scott
Thanks to Nick for flagging this video about London City’s plan to have a remote control tower. This is most definitely going to be the future, especially when it can make for such great efficiency at smaller airports which won’t require their own dedicated controllers.

Two for the road:
Could heated airport runways melt away your winter travel headaches?The Today Show
I love the idea of heated runways, but you also need taxiways, ramps, etc. Oh, and it’s really expensive. But it’s pretty cool to watch the video nonetheless.

Grounded and Gutted, Main Afghan Airline Struggles After Taliban AttackThe New York Times
The next time you all want to complain about United, just read this story.

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10 comments on “3 Links I Love: Remote Air Traffic Control, Heating Runways, an Airline to Make You Appreciate the US Carriers

  1. Re: Heated runways

    I actually do think you could get away with just heating the runways. IAD will slow to a crawl when they can only keep one runway open at a time during winter ops. Sure, you still have to keep the taxwiays and ramps clear, but in my experience, those are nowhere near the problem the runway is.

    Also, the $200 million quoted doesn’t seem all that bad. If one believes passenger-value-of-time calculations to be “real”, then I could see a system like this paying for itself at a major airport like ORD in less than 5 years.

    So I guess the real question is what is the expected life of a system like this, and what are the annual maintenance and operating costs?

  2. Bloody love London City Airport – just a shame I can only use it a couple of times a year; 45 minutes from my office desk in Central London to gate.

  3. Re the heated runways. I doubt this would ever be economically feasible. In addition to the installation cost, the cost of electricity to run the systems would be off the page. I have a friend in Park City who has a similar system on half of her driveway. It has been nothing but trouble for all the years she’s had it and her electric bill in winter is astronomical. She recently had to spend a bundle to install a new heated drains system to carry the run-off. Some ideas are not worth pursuing.

    1. My friends in Colorado who have a heated driveway have solar panels up for that purpose and it costs them nothing to operate. They estimate that they save money because paying to have it plowed is not cheap. Park City is sunny enough for solar to work and if she can afford to live there at all, she can afford to put in some solar and a Tesla Power Wall. :-)

  4. The heated runway is an interesting idea. It may take some time and technology advances to bring down the cost. I remember in the 70s or 80s, Sweden was experimenting with running their main sewer lines under their major streets. The sewage was warmer than the ground, so the main streets were kept free of accumulating snow. I don’t know how widely this was implemented.

    The worst situation would be if you fired up this baby, but the snow was coming so fast and it was so cold, the first layer melts, then the cold air freezes it. Ice is self-insulating, so the subsequent snow wouldn’t melt when it hit the ice. Engineers would have to take that into consideration, and some storms could be so bad, you wouldn’t turn on the heaters.

    I still think this idea has merit, and hope to see it implemented widely at some point when the cost has decreased enough to make it economical.

    1. Big snowstorms, you plow it down to just a little bit and then fire up the heaters… and then keep it bare and wet, safe for takeoff and landing. If it keeps snowing that hard, plow again and resume ops. Still seems likely to be a benefit during and after lighter snow events.

  5. Thanks for posting the video. I love Tom Scott’s stuff and try to watch everything he does, but somehow missed this one.

  6. Forget heated runways, just install flame throwers along the runway and each time a plane passes they come on to melt the snow on top of the runway. Less costly to install and run, and would be fun to watch.

    Now you know I’m kidding, but watch some airport do that and make millions off my idea…..LOL

  7. An issue with heated runways, besides cost, is that it is more difficult to modify if needed. It’s harder to just cut into concrete to secure down a barrier or a pylon or whatever as the heating system can’t be disturbed.

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