No extension to European B-RNAV deadline

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Europe has decided against a further extension to the deadline by which operators in European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC) airspace must meet basic area navigation (B-RNAV) requirements - despite some aircraft not being equipped with suitable navigation equipment.

The deadline was originally set for 23 April, but exemptions were permitted until 1 August to give operators more time to fit aircraft with B-RNAV equipment capable of meeting the 'required navigation performance 5' specification, which demands accuracy of 5nm (9.3km) for 95% of the flight duration.

Eurocontrol navigation section head, Rowland Rawlings, says that the ATM/CNS (air traffic management/communications navigation surveillance) Consultancy Committee did consider a further extension, but decided against delaying any longer.

Eurocontrol has been responsible for managing the exemption policy on behalf of ECAC states, but will hand over this task to national air traffic service (ATS) providers on 1 August.

"No further exemption will be given," says Rawlings. "This is necessary to ensure that those with the equipment can derive the benefit."

Eurocontrol, which chairs the consultancy committee, played a neutral role during the extension considerations, says Rawlings. Committee membership is made up of the air traffic service (ATS) providers within the 27 Eurocontrol member states.

Some countries and operators have had difficulties in meeting the deadline, while others are understood to have been strongly against an extension.

Rawlings adds that the April deadline extension "raised concern for those already equipped", but says that Eurocontrol does "realise that some operators had genuine problems [in meeting the requirement]".

While there is to be no extension, some countries may be able to accommodate non-equipped aircraft if this does not adversely affect safety or efficiency. There are also some differences in the minimum flight level (FL) of RNAV applicability. This will be harmonised to a common level of FL 95 on 8 October. At present the usual lower limit is FL195.

Rawlings stresses that aircraft without suitable equipment will be restricted to operations and routes where B-RNAV compliance is not required. It will therefore be more difficult for them to operate within ECAC airspace and they will not be able to take advantage of the greater operational flexibility afforded by the system.

B-RNAV is important to operators as its allows an increase in air routes and frequencies through more flexible navigation. Eurocontrol expects a 30% increase in capacity to be achieved.

Further delays in introducing B-RNAV could cause continued difficulties in congested airspace, such as that over Germany. Delays could also interfere with the opening of Oslo's new Gardermoen airport on 8 October, since Scandinavia will switch to B-RNAV on that date and the airport's procedures are reliant on the new system.

B-RNAV implementation has been made more difficult by the withdrawal of the Omega long-range navigation system and the need to certificate GPS satellite-based navigation in its place. Airlines were also slow off the mark in ordering the equipment.

Further developments of RNAV such as the introduction of precision-RNAV (P-RNAV) will only occur if cost effectiveness can be demonstrated. Eurocontrol will monitor B-RNAV's benefits to determine whether they are sufficient to warrant P-RNAV implementation. In the meantime, RNAV will be extended to terminal areas - the busy air traffic zones around airports - providing benefits to suitably equipped aircraft.