Modern Jets Can Leapfrog ATC Technology

Singapore Air Show » 2006
November 30, 2006, 11:07 AM

Dramatic reductions in approach minimums at terrain-challenged airports are among the more spectacular results of applying RNP-Rnav. But more widespread benefits are promised when procedures based on the capabilities of modern aircraft supersede those that tie the airplanes to expensive ground navigational aids.

Where conventional infrastructure is currently lacking, routine operations based on RNP-Rnav may make the development of new airports and airways far less
cost-prohibitive. “The modern transport aircraft has the autonomous capability to precisely fly a complex path defined to any runway on the planet to near ILS minimums,” said Steve Fulton, founder of Naverus, a Renton, Washington-based company that pioneered the use of RNP-Rnav terminal procedures in the United States. He suggested that in the context of fast growing economies with rapidly growing modern fleets operating in regions where little ground-based infrastructure exists, RNP may be the civil aviation equivalent of the cell phone: “Why install ground components when this capability is already on board the aircraft?”

At Lhasa in Tibet last April, Air China pilots demonstrated the ability of a Boeing 757-200 modified to follow new approach and departure procedures developed by Naverus. Among those present was vice minister Wang Changshung of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), who shared Fulton’s vision of RNP in the mountainous western part of China, where some airports lack ILS systems because of difficult terrain and installation costs.

To solve these problems, the minister said, “We need new flight technology. RNP-Rnav can help facilitate airport construction in the West with improved safety of operations while reducing the reliance on ground equipment with
the associated large investments. In addition, with RNP-Rnav we can reduce the airspace congestion of the Pearl River Delta region with an increase in airspace capacity and operational efficiency.”

The results would include reduced flight delays, an increase in flights and revenue growth for the operator. The CAAC expects to issue its own RNP airworthiness and operation standards soon.

“The developing regions of the world have the necessary populations of modern aircraft, the freedom from outdated infrastructure and a growing force of highly educated engineers, scientists and technicians,” concluded Fulton. “Advances in civil aviation will be led by those nations that don’t want to build on outdated systems, and realize you don’t have to with the opportunities provided by the technology already on board the modern aircraft.”

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