Atlantic wins approval for precision RNP at Vagar, orders another A319

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Europe has seen its first high precision required navigation performance approach approved for commercial passenger operations. In use by Atlantic Airways at its Vágar, Faroe Islands base, the carrier uses a specially-equipped Airbus A319 for the required navigation procedure - authorisation required (RNP-AR) satellite-guided approach, and has also announced that it has exercised an option on a second A319 for delivery "in Spring 2013".

Pioneered by Atlantic Airways with Airbus and navigation procedures designer Quovadis, the approach has been undergoing trials on scheduled services since March this year, but has now been approved by the Danish aviation authority for use down to RNP AR 0.1 minima (lateral accuracy guaranteed within 0.1nm).

The approval enables Atlantic to fly its specially equipped A319 into its Vágar base using significantly reduced minima, despite the demanding nature of surrounding terrain and the far north Atlantic winter weather conditions. The carrier said the precise details of the operating minima are confidential to it and the Danish authorities as its procedures are proprietary. The airline says the system has already brought improved punctuality and regularity for the islands' lifeline service to Copenhagen, with a number of A319 flights being able to land at Vágar when landings by the airline's BAE Systems Avro RJ aircraft have not been possible.

The RNP-AR procedures use satellite navigation equipment to enable crews to fly an approach, take-off or go-around path that replicates the route that would be flown in visual meteorological conditions, weaving along narrow valleys.

Sámal Danielsen, director flight operations, says: "We are delighted to receive full and unrestricted approval for our proprietary RNP operating system after a successful trial period of operating at higher minima, during which every procedure flown was post-analysed for accuracy and integrity."

Atlantic Airways flight crews are set to start a six-month trial as part of their next project - an internally-developed system using Apple iPads to replace the huge volume of paperwork associated with every flight. The airline is initially looking for Class 1 approval, which will include most flight documentation, but which excludes the "plates" that map out approaches at different airports.

Meanwhile, the airline will acquire a second A319 in Spring 2013, following news that it has won a contract to operate flights for Danish tour operator Atlantis Rejser, which was the first Nordic travel agency to offer package holidays to Sharm el Sheikh. Atlantic Airways will provide charter capacity primarily out of Billund, Denmark.