EASA database approvals clear way for precision navigation

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Carriers will be able to make use of precision area navigation procedures this year following European aviation regulators’ initial approvals of flight management system database providers.

Representatives of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) have provided letters of acceptance to navigation data suppliers European Aeronautical Group (EAG) and Lufthansa Systems.

Precision area navigation (P-RNAV) procedures require aircraft to be able to maintain a track to a lateral accuracy of 1nm (1.85km) for 95% of the time, through use of on-board avionics or ground-based navaids.

The concept is aimed at providing consistency of area navigation operations within terminal airspace. P-RNAV will allow such operations to be based on a common set of principles – as opposed to the present situation, where area navigation is subject to national variations in approval requirements, procedure design, and navigation data integrity.

Approval from EASA follows audits of the database providers, conducted by the European regulator in co-operation with the US FAA, which began around May and June this year. US navigation data specialist Jeppesen is also undergoing a similar audit process.

EASA says that the audit “ensures the integrity of the entire database production process” and adds: “A supplier is entitled to have a letter of acceptance, issued by EASA, when the supplier has demonstrated compliance with a number of defined conditions.”

Lufthansa Systems’ says that, following the approval, some 110 airline customers of its Lido flight management system database will be able to apply to use new P-RNAV procedures.

The company says that the new procedures will be permitted from October this year and will represent a “major innovation” in navigation.

Rival provider EAG says: “With the advent of P-RNAV the aviation authorities decided, in the interests of air safety, that operators should purchase their flight management system databases from an approved supplier.

“As there were no suppliers with the required approvals at the time, it became incumbent on the operators to ensure their data was accurate and safe. Now that EAG has received approval from EASA, this means operators can be assured the data provided by EAG has been produced to a globally-accepted standard. 

Eurocontrol says that P-RNAV will enable carriers to use area navigation functionality in all phases of flight except during final approach or a missed approach.

“This allows the routes in terminal airspace to be defined to best meet the needs of the airport, air traffic controller and pilot,” says the organisation. “This often means shorter, more direct routes with simple connections to the en route structure.”

EASA approval means that the suppliers’ databases comply with the European standard known as ED-76. The US equivalent is the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics’ (RTCA) document DO-200A, which deals with standards for processing aeronautical data.