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.
Eurocopter obtained the first license in Europe permitting localizer-performance with vertical guidance (LPV) approaches on a helipad, at its development and production facility in Donauwörth, Germany. The helicopter manufacturer emphasized that such a procedure improves safety in poor visibility, since aircraft can overfly obstacles more safely.
A recent FAA flight check discovered a previously unknown obstruction beneath the Runway 4 ILS glideslope at New York La Guardia Airport (KLGA), ruling out a full ILS approach to that runway. Aircraft landing on Runway 4 can now use only the localizer approach, which carries minimums nearly 300 feet higher. In poor weather, the only practical option for the area is to operate both LGA and John F. Kennedy (KJFK) airports on a southeast runway configuration, which, in turn, creates significant arrival delays at nearby Teterboro Airport (KTEB).
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.
As part of continued cost cutting by the U.S. federal government, the FAA has announced plans to begin decommissioning some instrument approach procedures (IAP) to save on maintenance costs of ground-based navaids. The agency said the plan also stems from a near doubling of new IAPs in the past decade thanks to advances in satellite-based approach systems.
The captain of an Embraer ERJ-145 has highlighted what he says was a “serious threat to flight safety” caused by the actions of air traffic controllers during an approach to Charlotte Douglas International Airport (KCLT) last January.
According to testimony recently given through NASA’s confidential aviation safety reporting system (ASRS), the flight in low-visibility conditions (reported as one quarter mile) encountered radar altimeter problems that eventually caused the crew to miss their first Category II ILS approach at CLT and head to an alternate.
The FAA issued a recommendation on July 28 to the flight crew of non-U.S. airlines flying into San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to back up a visual arrival by using a GPS approach normally stored in the aircraft’s flight management system (FMS). The onboard approaches can generate a virtual glideslope during visual approaches regardless of the status of ground-based electronics.
South Korea has been subject to annual GPS jamming attacks by its North Korean neighbor since 2010. Over that period, jamming has extended over longer periods, with the longest being a continuous 16-day attack, employing various frequencies, techniques and signal strengths. As the jamming periods increased each year, they affected more and more GPS users. Last year, South Korean officials estimated that 1,016 aircraft lost GPS signals, as did 254 ships and a large number of cellphone towers.
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.