Europe may be well behind the rest of the world in using required navigation performance (RNP) airspace management solutions in airport terminal areas, but aside from the successful Atlantic Airways project in the Faroe Islands, a few other European RNP projects are under way.

The massive, multi-layered Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) Joint Undertaking (SJU) push towards the holy grail of a Single European Sky includes a project called RISE (RNP Implementation Synchronised in Europe). This plan, in partnership with Airbus ProSky, will oversee the implementation of performance-based navigation (PBN) procedures at just eight airports in southern Europe.

In contrast, the US Federal Aviation Administration’s NextGen air traffic management modernisation programme has as one of its prime objectives the move towards complete satellite-guided RNP as the primary means of navigation, both en-route and at terminal. Europe, with its denser airspace, is more hesitant.

Meanwhile, the SJU RISE project was launched last December and trials are beginning now. It is managed by Airbus ProSky in collaboration with four air navigation service providers and three airlines: Cyprus’s DCAC, NAV Portugal, France’s DSNA and Greece’s HCAA, working with Air France, Novair and TAP Air Portugal. This will involve more than 160 flight trials, including RNP approaches, RNP standard arrival procedures, visual area navigation (RNAV), and RNP approach to instrument landing system (ILS).

Airports involved include Nice and Ajaccio in France, Paphos and Larnaca in Cyprus, Madeira and Horta in Portugal and Corfu, Iraklion, Santorini and Mykonos in Greece. RNP will remove the need for circle-to-land approaches and make ground navigation aids redundant, or at most a back-up capability. It will also lower weather minima and allow shorter tracks, resulting in track miles savings, as well as facilitating fuel-efficient continuous descent arrivals.

Head of SJU programmes Florian Guillermet comments: “The RISE project offers an important opportunity to demonstrate more widely the significant efficiency, safety and environmental benefits that are possible with PBN procedures. In doing so, the project will further convince the broader community that the first SESAR solutions are fit for wider scale implementation.”

Airbus ProSky describes the purpose of PBN procedures using RNP standards as “an important way of freeing aircraft from reliance on ground-based navigational aids, and allowing more flexible and optimum routing using satellite navigation”. The company adds: “While these procedures have existed for some time, implementation in Europe has been slow due to a number of operational factors.”

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, Airbus ProSky has supported South African Airways in winning the first FAA approval to operate RNP-AR (RNP – authorisation required) procedures in the USA with Airbus A330s, while just to the south Haiti is preparing to introduce PBN navigation procedures at two of its airports.

The effect of the FAA approval for SAA is that the carrier’s A330s can fly all public RNP-AR procedures in the US, including the challenging curved approaches into New York’s John F Kennedy airport. The aircraft is fully guided by its automatic flight system during RNP-AR approaches. SAA had already worked with Airbus ProSky to become the first operator of RNP-AR procedures on the African continent, so RNP was not new to the carrier.

SAA head of flight operations Capt Sandy Bayne says: “Introducing RNP AR approaches to JFK will make it easier and safer for our pilots to operate these challenging approaches on the arrival of our long-haul flights from Johannesburg. It is a great enhancement to our operations in the US, and we are proud to be the first Airbus A330 carrier to receive approval.”

Also, following a meeting in Miami to agree the Haitian RNP programme, Haiti’s Office National de L'Aviation Civile, IATA, Airbus ProSky and operators including American Airlines, Air France and Jet Blue have set out to validate the new terminal airspace designs for Cap-Haïtien International airport and Port-au-Prince International airport.

The result will be RNP category 1 standard arrival procedures, standard instrument departures and RNAV global navigation satellite system-guided approaches to both airports. An RNP-AR on runway 05 of Cap-Haïtien airport was also designed to provide shorter trajectory options for operators that are RNP-AR capable, resulting in significant track miles reductions – and therefore fuel savings.

Fuel savings, noise nuisance reduction, improved traffic flow through airports and better safety are all achievable through the application of well-designed RNP approaches. Even in Europe they will become the standard, eventually.