If you think the next-generation air transportation system (NextGen) is still far down the flyway, consider this. Starting in September, the FAA, in conjunction with Eurocontrol, will begin teaching courses in performance-based navigation (PBN) in all International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) regions.
Days after returning from a series of meetings in New Delhi, India, and Dubai, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey said, “It is clear that the rest of the world is looking to the United States of America for leadership at a time when aviation is growing rapidly across the globe.” She spoke at a media briefing last month at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport announcing new required navigation performance (RNP) and area navigation (Rnav) procedures.
With Rnav, said Blakey, the FAA has implemented 155 arrivals and departures at 38 airports and will publish 42 more by year-end. She said that Rnav is saving about $8.5 million per year annually at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), and Delta Air Lines reports savings of $36 million annually at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
“We’re also seeing capacity benefits with Rnav,” she said. “At DFW, Rnav departures are allowing between 11 and 20 additional operations per hour. Results are similar at Atlanta, with an additional 10 departures per hour.”
RNP Approaches Multiply
According to Blakey, RNP is making the same kind of headway. “Alaska Airlines reported more than 980 ‘diversion saves’ in 2006 due to RNP,” she said. “We have 37 RNP approaches in place at 17 airports, with another 34 approaches that should be in place by the end of the year.” The agency published 10 more RNP approach procedures at Atlanta and three at DFW on May 10. The FAA plans to publish at least 25 approaches next year.
Further, the FAA gave Delta approval on March 6 to use its entire 737-800 fleet to fly RNP approaches. Horizon, Alaska and Continental airlines also have RNP approvals. “Late yesterday afternoon, I learned that the entire Southwest [Airlines] fleet is going to be equipped for RNP,” Blakey said. “That means all new airplanes and a retrofit of what’s in the fleet now. Let me tell you, this is a tipping point for performance-based navigation.”
The Administrator also pointed out that PBN is “green,” saving fuel, relieving congestion, alleviating choke points and reducing delays. “It is clear that performance-based navigation is good for the environment,” she said. In addition, “Flying straight down the middle of a flight path means that people on the ground perceive less jet noise and experience fewer engine emissions.”
Meanwhile, the FAA is extending the reach of NextGen to the international aviation community. The agency is pursuing harmonization through bilateral and multilateral efforts such as the North American Trilateral, Eurocontrol, Australia’s Aviation Safety Authority, the General Administration of the Civil Aviation of China, the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau and the ICAO Required Navigation Performance and Special Operational Requirements Study Group.