Brazil's Rio-Sul on brink of GPS approaches

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Brazilian commuter carrier Rio-Sul Airlines believes it is within three months of being allowed to perform satellite navigation-guided approaches on revenue flights.

The airline last week began training its Embraer EMB-120 Brasilia crews to fly global-positioning system (GPS) non-precision approaches using Trimble 2101 receivers linked to the autopilot.

At the same time, says GPS procedure designer, Raimundo Moreno, the Brazilian authorities have begun inspection flights at the first of 17 airports due to have GPS procedures by the end of the year.

Interviewed at a GPS procedures design symposium run by computerised procedure design specialist Wavionix in Geneva, Moreno says he has finished work on the approaches for all 17 airports.

The procedures are all standalone designs, rather than overlays of existing approaches, although Moreno says they take advantage of pre-existing techniques where it makes sense.

Rio-Sul Brasilia pilot, Capt Pedro Scorza, says the first approach to be approved will be at either Porto Allegro, where the airline operates four-times-daily but GPS brings only minor advantages, or Joinville, where it flies only twice-daily but could win big reductions in approach minima.

The project has taken much longer than expected, he says, but the airline and aviation authorities have taken a very conservative approach to safety.

At each airport, Rio-Sul have to fly 12 inspection flights in visual conditions within 30-days and, if the resulting data is accepted by the government, the approach is then flown by an official inspection pilot before it is passed for bad weather use.

Rio-Sul is now accepting RJ145 regional jets from Embraer and will use that aircraft's more sophisticated Honeywell integrated GPS and flight management system to fly the approaches.

Separately, Honeywell continues to run differential GPS trials in Brazil, holding out the possibility of precision approaches one day.