Last month US Airways became the first airline to receive FAA certification approval of the SafeRoute suite of NextGen avionics applications in the Airbus A330. The airline claims SafeRoute will “enhance operational safety and efficiency during various phases of flight.”
Developed by the airline in cooperation with Aviation Communication & Surveillance Systems (ACSS), an L-3 Communications and Thales joint venture, SafeRoute features automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast and four new cockpit applications–interval management, in-trail procedures, cockpit display of traffic information to assist in visual separation, and surface area movement management. These systems are designed to provide the following benefits:
Interval management makes use of onboard aircraft surveillance to provide flight deck spacing commands that enable aircraft to follow one another at the safest, most efficient interval possible, from cruise altitude to the runway.
In-trail procedures improve situational awareness and enable flight crews to perform desired altitude changes more frequently in oceanic or non-radar airspace.
Cockpit display of traffic information to assist in visual separation allows the flight crew to continue visual approach procedures using the electronic display to maintain separation if visual contact with traffic-to-follow is lost in haze or darkness. It also assists the flight crew in properly timing the deceleration to final approach speed, configuring the aircraft for landing and properly spacing aircraft on the final approach segment just before landing.
Surface area movement management provides a moving-map display of the airport surface in the cockpit that shows other traffic operating in the terminal, taxi and runway areas, thereby improving runway safety.
“A lot of time and hard work has been invested by the US Airways team, ACSS, the FAA and Eurocontrol in reaching this milestone,” said US Airways executive vice president and COO Robert Isom. “US Airways is proud to partner with these organizations to help demonstrate the benefits of NextGen technology.”
US Airways plans to use the SafeRoute-equipped A330s on routes between the U.S. and Europe. The new technology will help US Airways broaden use of new NextGen airspace design, including continuous or optimized profile descents (OPDs) that eliminate traditional step-down approaches while reducing fuel burn and emissions. Developed with the FAA and airline partners (US Airways among them), OPDs are currently in use at Phoenix Sky Harbor and Reagan National in Washington, D.C. (DCA) and are being implemented at Charlotte, N.C.
US Airways spokesman Todd Lehmacher said OPDs will save the airline an estimated $2.8 million in fuel annually at DCA alone. OPDs have the added benefit of reducing communication, clogged frequencies and ATC workload.