Because air traffic controllers are increasingly making traffic separation decisions based upon an aircraft’s global navigation satellite system (GNSS) capability–or lack thereof–the FAA has begun updating aircraft equipment suffixes for traffic operating in U.S. domestic airspace. For instance, a GNSS-equipped aircraft may now fly a random route without the need for ATC radar monitoring, where previously radar was always required.
It is becoming more and more likely that in coming histories of aviation, the key major milestones will include the introduction of jet aircraft, the widespread adoption of satellite positioning and the arrival of required navigation performance (RNP). Jets and satnav are now irreplaceable elements that we take for granted.
Any of the 6,000 helicopters that annually use the helipad at Eurocopter’s facility in Donauwörth, Germany, will now find arrivals easier in poor weather with the recent certification of a GPS localizer performance with vertical guidance (LPV) approach to the pad, one of the few in Europe certified for all-weather operations.
In 2008 Donauwörth became the first European helipad to introduce satellite-based Rnav (area navigation) specifically for use by rotorcraft.
American Airlines has spent some $400 million in the past few years to retrofit its existing fleet for the planned NextGen flight environment in the U.S. But at this stage it has not seen the operational benefits it had hoped for, according to the airline’s director of airspace modernization and advanced technologies.
The FAA’s NextGen ATC modernization program faces long-term technical risks and still uncertain acceptance by airspace users. But after a decade in development, NextGen could be stalled by a nearer-term threat: substantially reduced funding from Congress. In June, the House appropriations committee released transportation funding legislation for Fiscal Year 2014 that would reduce the FAA’s capital funding account, which supports NextGen programs, to its lowest level since 2000.
Mercy One helicopter emergency medical services at Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines, Iowa, one of the first HEMS operators certified to fly Waas low-level IFR routes, including approaches to local hospitals, recently added a second Waas-capable Bell 429 to its fleet. These IFR routes keep helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft from mixing in IFR airspace. Three of the hospital helipad approaches are Waas-based while another is an approach to a helipad in Stuart, Iowa, that is used as a rendezvous for helicopters and ground ambulances from surrounding counties.
Air traffic controllers are using advanced procedures to space aircraft closer together on takeoff and landing at major U.S. airports, making early progress toward a major goal of the NextGen ATC modernization effort: increasing airspace capacity.
Delta Air Lines has awarded Innovative Solutions & Support a $60 million contract to outfit its fleet of 182 MD-88s and MD-90s as well as several flight simulators with standardized glass cockpits.
The road to future communications, navigation and surveillance operations will not include any major technology upheavals in user requirements before 2020, according to projected roadmaps presented at ICAO’s Air Navigation Conference in Montreal recently. In fact, new technologies mentioned for each of the three regimes were usually described in terms of their potential future benefits, with no suggestion of their actual readiness for implementation.
The new Rnav SIDs for Chicago O’ Hare (ORD) and Midway (MDW) airports scheduled for release last week were declared “technically unusable” until further notice after a potential problem was identified at the last minute.