RNP at midsized airports promises big benefits: GE

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Deploying required navigation performance (RNP) approaches at 46 midsized airports that are not now the focus of the US NextGen airspace overhaul could save many millions of dollars worth of fuel, costs and air traffic delay hours.

General Electric draws this conclusion in a report touting the benefits of RNP technology. It follows deployment of two new RNP instrument approaches for Alaska's Deadhorse airport, the state's first public-use RNP procedure.

The RNP procedures, which use onboard guidance and navigation equipment to fly along a procedurally defined, precise corridor of airspace to either end of the single-runway airport, provide as much as 4nm (7.4km) decreased track distance compared with other GPS-based approaches at the airport.

Located above the Arctic Circle, Deadhorse is a key staging point for personnel and equipment travelling to Alaska's Prudhoe Bay and North Slope oil areas, and is serviced by Alaska Airlines. Energy company ConocoPhillips, an operator at the airport, paid the development costs.

The procedure marks the second public-use RNP procedure developed for the US market since GE was approved by the Federal Aviation Administration as a third-party performance-based navigation procedure provider in 2009.

In August 2010, the company published an RNP approach for Bradley International airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, with American Airlines making the first RNP approach and landing.

While RNP is crucial to the FAA's NextGen air traffic modernisation programme, it concentrates on the most heavily travelled "metroplex" airspace. GE has studied the economic and environmental benefits of RNP at 46 light-traffic, non-metroplex airports over the next three years.

In a report, Highways in the Sky, it records the strong benefits from RNP implementation at midsized airports such as Austin, Buffalo, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Sacramento and Salt Lake City.

"We're talking about $65 million in economic value," said GE Aviation fellow Steve Fulton. He said50 million litres ( the savings could amount to 13 million USgal) of fuel, 125 million kg (275 million lb) of carbon dioxide and "over two years of travellers' lives being saved per year".