Aircraft Safely Flying Closer in Southern California

New ATC wake turbulence standards no longer weight-based.

ATC Wake Turbulence Standards
As part of the FAA's RECAT, arriving and departing aircraft are safely flying closer together over Southern California.iStock

Travelers in Southern California may have noticed arriving and departing aircraft are flying a bit closer together these days. It’s not a mistake but rather part of the FAA’s aircraft re-categorization (RECAT) recently implemented in the region. Specifically, the newest RECAT II program allows tighter separation between the most common aircraft in the area, but based upon a new wake turbulence category, rather than the decades-old weight-based separation standards. The RECAT II evolved from a decade of collaborative research by wake turbulence experts, extensive safety and risk analysis and four years of RECAT Phase I operational experience at 23 major U.S. airports.

For operations within the Southern California TRACON (SCT) airspace, aircraft are grouped into seven wake categories based on the following definitions: Category A – The Airbus A380. Category B – Upper Heavy aircraft. Category C – Lower Heavy aircraft. Category D – Large aircraft. Category E – Small Plus aircraft with a maximum takeoff weight of more than 15,400 pounds up to 41,000 pounds. Category F – Small aircraft with a maximum takeoff weight of 15,400 pounds or less. Category G – Heavy aircraft not included in Category B or C.

Also included under the new RECAT II program for reduced separation standards are the Los Angeles Airport Traffic Control Tower (KLAX), Santa Ana John Wayne (KSNA), San Diego Lindbergh Air Traffic Control Tower (KSAN) Ontario Air Traffic Control Tower (KONT) and Burbank Air Traffic Control Tower (KBUR).