Wake Vortices


Wake vortices are generated whenever a aircraft generates lift. The downwash immediately behind the aircraft rolls up into two counter rotating vortices that trail out behind the aircraft. The wakes from large aircraft pose a potential hazard to following smaller aircraft. A vortex encounter may result in an uncontrollable roll. Separation standards are designed to keep aircraft far enough apart that hazardous encounters do not occur.


Dr. Burnham has worked with the Wake Vortex Program of the Federal Aviation Administration since 1970 whenever it was active and is the author of the following publications:

"Aircraft Wake Vortex Sensing Systems," D. Burnham, M. Gorstein, J. Hallock, R. Kodis, T. Sullivan and I. McWilliams, Report No. DOT-TSC-FAA-72-2 (1972)

"Vortex Sensing Tests at NAFEC," D. Burnham, J. Hallock, R. Kodis, and T. Sullivan, Report No. DOT-TSC-FAA-72-2 (1972)

"Vortex Sensing Tests at Logan and Kennedy Airports," T. Sullivan and D. Burnham, Report No. FAA-RD-72-141 (1972)

"Observations of Acoustic Ray Deflection by Aircraft Wake Vortices," D. Burnham, R. Kodis and T. Sullivan, J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 52, 431 (1972)

"Effect of Ground Wind Shear on Aircraft Trailing Vortices," AIAA Journal 10, 1114 (1972)

"Influence of Flaps and Engines on Aircraft Wake Vortices," D.C. Burnham and T.E. Sullivan J. Aircraft 11, 591 (1974)

"Measurement of `Wake Vortex' Strength by Means of Acoustic Back Scattering," D.C. Burnham, T.E. Sullivan and L.S. Wilk, J. Aircraft 13, 889 (1976)

"Characteristics of a Wake Vortex Tracking System Based on Acoustic Refractive Scattering, "J. Acoust. Soc. Am. Vol. 61, No. 3, March 1977, pp 647-654.

"Joint US/UK Vortex Tracking Program at Heathrow International Airport, Volume II: Data Analysis," J.N. Hallock, B.P. Winston, D.C. Burnham, T.E. Sullivan and I.g. McWilliams, Report No. FAA-RD-76-58,II, November 1977

"Ground-Based Measurements of the Wake Vortex Characteristics of a B-747 Aircraft in Various Configurations," D.C. Burnham, J.N. Hallock, I.H. Tombach, M.R. Brashears and M.R. Barber, Report No. FAA-RD-78-146, December 1978

"Aircraft Wake Vortex Takeoff Tests at Toronto International Airport," T. Sullivan, J. Hallock, B. Winston, I. McWilliams and D. Burnham, Report No. FAA-RD-78-143, February 1979

"Chicago Monostatic Acoustic Vortex Sensing System:

Volume I: Data Collection and Reduction," D.C. Burnham, FAA-RD-79-103, I, October 1979

Volume II: Decay of B-707 and DC-8 Aircraft Vortices," D.C. Burnham and J.N. Hallock, DOT/FAA/RD-79-103, II, September 1981

Volume III: Executive Summary: Decay of B-707 and DC-8 Vortices," D.C. Burnham and J.N. Hallock, DOT/FAA/RD-79-103, III, January 1982

Volume IV: Wake Vortex Decay," D.C. Burnham and J.N. Hallock, DOT/FAA/RD-79-103, IV, July 1982

"Ground Wind Vortex Sensing System," T.E. Sullivan and D.C. Burnham, FAA-RD-80-13, February 1980

"B-747 Vortex Alleviation Flight Tests: Ground-based Sensor Measurements," Report No. DOT-FAA-RD-81-99, February 1982

"Aircraft Wake Vortex Takeoff Tests at O'Hare International Airport," J. Yarmus, D. Burnham, A. Wright and T. Talbot, Report No. DOT/FAA/RD-94-25, August 1994.

"Wake Vortex Research Lessons Learned," G.C. Greene, R.E. Dunham, D.C. Burnham, J.N. Hallock, Proceedings of the Aircraft Wake Vortices Conference, October 29-31, 1991, Report No. DOT/FAA/SD-92/1.2, pp2-(1-13).

"How to Use Wake Vortex Measurements to Set Separation Standards," Proceedings of the Aircraft Wake Vortices Conference, October 29-31, 1991, Report No. DOT/FAA/SD-92/1.1, pp 53-(1-11).

More recent publications will be added shortly.

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Last Updated , August 16, 1997 by David Burnham