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When McLaren offered help to manage air traffic at Heathrow

india Updated: Oct 28, 2011 19:23 IST

The F1 engineers work tirelessly to invent technology which can increase the speed of a car and make it more efficient but can they also help manage the air traffic? If you talk about Team McLaren, the answer is yes.

The technology this team uses for co-ordination during the all crucial pit-stop during a race, is now being used by British Airport Association (BAA) for hassle free and speedy landing and take-off at Heathrow, one of the busiest airports in the world.

There are quite a similarities between the work that F1 engineers do when car comes in the pit lane and an aircraft arriving and leaving from an airport, like refueling the vehicle, offloading passengers and changing tyres.

McLaren uses software called Marple which helps them track the race circuit and its traffic. The technology helps them make the strategic decision of zeroing in on the best time to get the car in the pit-lane and resend it to the track with minimum of timing involved and importantly without much traffic ahead or behind.

The airport authorities also face the problem of managing heavy traffic and smooth and quick landing.

"The whole idea is: when to bring in the car in the pit-lane. Change all the four tyres quickly, clean the car and send it back. We monitor the race and all the information is available in the form a circle, which gives a clear position about the traffic," Matt Bishop, Head of Communication, McLaren said.

"It was successful and then we approached the BAA and told them that we can do it for them also. At the start of the year we spoke to them and now they are also using it," Bishop added.

Geoff McGrath, the managing director for McLaren Applied Technologies, invented the Marple technology and it was first invented by a team of McLaren Racing's race strategy software scientists in 2001.

The technology also helps in reducing the CO2 emissions as the aircrafts spend less time hovering in the sky.

According to a report more than half the planes landing at London's Heathrow airport are stuck in circles overhead --often for 20 minutes at a time -- as they wait for its congested runways to clear.

The carbon cost of this pile-up in the sky is an estimated 600 tons a day and with the use of this technology, emissions will reduce considerably.

"Think in terms of the environmental benefits of that. Large airports with about 1300 to 1400 flights a day - if you save just one minute of taxi time per flight on average, that equates to one day's worth of taxi time - and that's how much we could save using McLaren's technology," Peter Tomlinson, head of aviation data solutions at Britain's National Air Traffic Services (NATS), was quoted as saying in the report.