Manufacturers promote equipment interoperability

 - October 18, 2006, 8:07 AM

One of the recurrent themes at the Toulouse workshop was the inability of ATC services to provide operators opportunities to use the navigation performance of modern aircraft. Boeing’s John Ackland and Thomas Fixy of the EADS/Airbus/Thales Air Traffic Alliance took the stage to spell out a joint position on RNP.

All Airbus and Boeing production airplanes are delivered with RNP functionality as standard and have been for many years, they pointed out, adding: “States need to leverage this capability to the benefit of both the airlines and the air traffic system.”

A principal focus of the Boeing-Air Traffic Alliance cooperation will be interoperability in support of international standardization, addressed through the Lindbergh Committee. Specific initiatives– called Mermoz projects after the French pilot who pioneered air-mail services between Europe and South America and helped develop night-flying techniques–include RNP, GNSS landing systems, flight operations safety assessment, 4-D trajectories, communication and the airborne separation assistance system.

The organizations’ fundamental position is that an international airspace system built on performance-based concepts such as RNP is necessary to address the demand for growth in aviation. They maintain that a performance-based concept will provide a means to manage traffic flow and create operational efficiencies for current and future operations.

RNP, one of the key elements of this concept, is needed to define the flight path of an aircraft for safe and efficient navigation, and to provide for the safe separation of aircraft from other aircraft, sensitive airspace, weather and–during departure and approach–obstacles.

Expanding RNP Implementation

Aircraft-based RNP navigation can be leveraged to make significant advancements in the evolution of flight operations, and the aircraft manufacturers can help facilitate that evolution, the speakers said. “The aircraft manufacturers recognized the potential of the RNP concept years ago and worked with some airlines to introduce RNP operations, which have created significant value for those operators.” They plan to support and work with the airline community to continue the evolution and use of RNP.

There is a large base of airliners that can perform RNP operations, airlines are conducting operations using this functionality, and a number of states are implementing beneficial elements of the RNP concept using certified Airbus and Boeing aircraft: “Additional states need to build on this foundation,” they said.

Europe has moved part of the way with B-Rnav and P-Rnav but could benefit from a more extensive and comprehensive transition to RNP-based operations: “Today only a single European state is assessing RNP approaches in trials. We look forward to additional states’ implementing RNP, but we need harmonized approval criteria. There have been some special RNP authorizations in the last few years, but we need to accelerate the process,” the speakers added.

Ackland and Fixy explained that air traffic automation changes and charting and flight-plan suffixes defined in an operationally effective manner are necessary to achieve the full benefit of RNP operational capability. Global interoperability is another requirement, and operational approvals should be easily transferable from one state to another on the basis of multilateral agreements, they added.

The pair listed rational flight operation safety assessment methodologies, training for pilots and aviation authority specialists, a timetable for regulatory or policy changes, and a concept for the vertical aspects of RNP to support efficient vertical and lateral use of flight paths and airspace as other requirements to achieve the full benefits of RNP.

“It is particularly important to promote RNP consistency as certified on existing aircraft, and as used in airlines pioneering RNP operations,” they emphasized. “These aircraft and RNP operations will be the base for international commercial aviation operations in the future.”

The Air Traffic Alliance and Boeing consider RNP the overarching concept for global navigation, driving aircraft capability and operations. The speakers concluded, “The concept is the driver, and all the ‘technologies’ are the supporting enablers.”

The two organizations collaborated on last year’s tailored arrivals program in Australia, where they supported Airservices Australia and Qantas in trials of uplinked electronic clearances to Airbus A330s and Boeing 747-400s heading for Melbourne and Sydney. The clearances provided the crews with optimum descent profiles and reduced the need for voice communications.

Boeing and the Air Traffic Alliance have also attempted to engage Bombardier and Embraer in their discussions, but with limited success, they assert. Ackland added, “Maybe some of their operators could suggest they try to communicate with us. We have tried a number of times but have not had a good response.”