The required minimum separation distance between aircraft is believed to be one of the limiting factors on airspace capacity. In recent decades, aircraft separation rules have been modified by progressively shortening the required minimum separation distance. Following this trend in the coming years, a further reduction in the minimum separation distance would be expected. Still, a thorough assessment of the impact of this action on air traffic management performance should be carried out before investing in a reduction of separation minima. A Monte Carlo analysis of the en-route Spanish airspace shows that it is worth reducing the en-route minimum separation distance from 5 NM to 3 NM. This paper shows that a separation minima reduction will bring significant fuel savings, flight delay reduction, air traffic controller workload drop, and overall improvement of safety.
air traffic management; conflict detection; reduced separation distance; separation minima