Operation Direction: Whatever Way the Wind Blows

In which direction do aircraft take off from Frankfurt Airport, and from what direction do they land there? 

The operation direction – i.e. the direction in which the aircraft take off and from which they land – essentially depends on the prevailing wind direction at the airport. If an aircraft flies against the wind, this provides extra uplift when taking off and additional breaking force when landing. Therefore, DFS German Air Navigation Services orients air traffic towards the prevailing wind direction.

On this page, you will find the current operation direction and further information on how it is determined.

In addition, you can view the forecast operation direction for the next few days on the website of the Environment and Neighborhood House. To do this, click on the image below.

Why change take-off and landing direction at the airport?

 

To make the best possible use of the available runways, aircraft always take off and land against the wind.

The stronger the headwind, the shorter the acceleration or deceleration distance on the runway. By contrast, a tailwind increases these distances and becomes a safety risk above a specific wind speed.

That is why the take-off and landing direction – and therefore the operation direction – change on the three parallel runways according to the prevailing wind direction and speed:

  • Easterly wind: “Operation direction 07” (equivalent to compass heading of 70°) or “easterly direction,” flight direction from west to east
  • Westerly wind: “Operation direction 25” (equivalent to compass heading of 250°) or “westerly direction,” flight direction from east to west

Runway 18 (equivalent to compass heading of 180°) can be largely be used regardless of the respective operation direction of the parallel runway system.

To ensure a safe landing at any time for all approaching aircraft at Frankfurt Airport, the operation direction is changed in the parallel runway system if there is a tailwind of more than 5 knots (approx. 9 kilometers per hour). A tailwind increases the take-off and landing distance on the runway and becomes a safety risk above a specific wind speed. Usually, the westerly direction is rigorously maintained until the tailwind component of 5 knots is reached.

Due to the typical meteorological conditions in this region, on a long-term average, the parallel runways are used in the east-west direction around 70 percent of the time. The west-east operation direction predominates around 30 percent of the time. There are situations where stable easterly or westerly weather conditions prevail for lengthy periods and those where the operating direction changes multiple times a day.

If the wind comes from easterly directions, DFS German Air Navigation Services, which is responsible for directing aircraft, must order flight operations from west to east. By contrast, DFS orders flight operations towards the west when the wind blows from a westerly direction.

The operation direction of the parallel runway system changes depending on the prevailing wind direction and wind speed.

To the west of the airport, there are residential areas that are comparatively nearer to the airport than those in the east. Therefore, the westerly direction is the operation direction scenario in which fewer residents are affected by noise pollution.

The decision on operation direction and flight direction lies solely with DFS German Air Navigation Services, which adheres to clear specifications here. To maintain safe and regular air travel, the responsible managers of DFS must also bear in mind the actual upper wind conditions as well as the short-range and medium-range weather forecast of the German Weather Service at Frankfurt Airport.

In times of stable weather conditions, it may be that an operation direction applies to flights for a sustained period. Consequently, it is occasionally possible to deviate from the long-term averages of operation direction allocation (70 percent “westerly direction” and 30 percent ”easterly direction”).