Aircraft normally land at Barcelona's El Prat airport using either of the 25 runways, along a flight path hugging the coast, with a flip to the 07 orientation generally associated with bad weather.

Earlier today, though, my flight landed on a cross runway, 02, which I never knew existed, with a flight path at a rather steeper angle to the coast; there is some light cloud cover but nothing to write home about. What factors drive the change to this mode of operation? I'm interested both in the general criteria and in the specific conditions tonight.

And, more generally, what are the standard resources (or types of resources) that one should use to find out this type of information?

  • $\begingroup$ Related $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Mar 30 '19 at 23:18
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    $\begingroup$ For people voting to close: there is nothing opinion based about this, as you can see from my answer. $\endgroup$ – expeditedescent Mar 31 '19 at 8:05
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    $\begingroup$ Nor is it too broad, as there does appear to be a very specific reason. $\endgroup$ – FreeMan Apr 1 '19 at 13:40

Because 02 is the default runway for landing during nighttime (23 local time to 07 local time).

Night time configuration between 2300 and 0700 LT:

Preferential: North configuration intersecting runways

Arrivals: 02

Departures: 07R

(AIP Spain AD-2 LEBL - 8)

Airports usually have preferential runway configurations that will be used unless certain conditions (such as weather) require something else. These are usually created to avoid excessive noise to adjacent residential areas and to maximise traffic throughput.


According to the METAR history, winds at LEBL (El Prat, Spain) were from about 100 degrees until 2200Z, but they rapidly swung around to 340 by 2300Z. Still, the winds were light enough (3-5 knots) during that period that even small planes should have had no trouble continuing to use rwy 07L (3552m) or 07R (2660m); it certainly wasn't enough to prefer the shorter rwy 02 (2528m) and cut capacity by more than half--at least during the day.

If they needed to perform maintenance on either 07L or 07R, presumably the other would remain open. The capacity advantage would disappear in that case, possibly favoring 02 for the winds, but not the length advantage.

My hunch is that local noise abatement procedures dictate arriving aircraft avoid flying along the coast at night, when presumably traffic levels are low enough to allow intersecting-runway operations, whereas noise sensitivity is lower during the day despite traffic being higher.


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