Asian T-Prop Group Sees PBN as Answer to Infrastructure Crisis

 - November 21, 2017, 9:10 AM
Asian airlines flying turboprops such as the ATR 72-600 into challenging airfields benefit greatly from performance-based navigation (PBN) systems, according to safety authorities. (Photo: ATR)

The Asia Pacific Turboprop Safety Forum sees huge potential for performance-based navigation (PBN) at Southeast Asian airports facing infrastructure shortcomings. Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the recent Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) summit, AAPA technical director Martin Eran-Tasker and ATR head of Asia-Pacific Christophe Potocki agreed that government and aviation agencies should embrace PBN, which ATC experts say enhance the flying safety of turboprops into difficult airfields.

AAPA and turboprop manufacturers like ATR and Bombardier formed the Asia Pacific Turboprop Safety Forum in 2015 to cooperate on safety matters relating to turboprop aircraft in the region. The membership is not exclusive to airlines, but also includes smaller private operators.

Unlike traditional navigation aids using ground-based infrastructure like VOR and DME, PBN—and, more specifically, required performance navigation (RPN)—uses global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) and on-board systems to determine the aircraft’s position in relation to the intended flight path. The method results in seamless climb and descent, as well as optimized, precise and shorter patterns into airfields over a desired ground track.

Potocki said Southeast Asia could benefit from PBN and RNP because they do away with the need for new navaid infrastructure at second- and third-tier airports. Concurrently, RNP reduces pilot workload and enhances safety during approaches at airports in secluded and mountainous areas.

RNP operations studies made by Air New Zealand’s Mount Cook Airline on its ATR 72 fleet have shown a reduction in approach patterns by 25 nautical miles and of missed approach rates by more than ten fold, lowering fuel consumption on such flights.

“Many countries have plans but not all have it as [a] main focus,” he said. “PBN can be and should be implemented. Aviation is a conservative industry and perhaps that’s why it is safe.”

The U.S. is helping Indonesia implement RNP approaches at some of its challenging airfields, such as Ambon and Manado. Of the 237 airports in the world’s largest archipelago, only 38 used PBN approaches as of the end of last year.

ATR in January began delivering ATR 72s with vertical navigation (VNAV) systems installed as a default; the operator must activate them and pair them with the respective satellite systems.