Emirates is to be the first airline to install Honeywell's new landing aid, designed to prevent runway overruns by warning pilots that an approach is unsafe while the aircraft still has time to go around.
The SmartLanding system is a software upgrade to the enhanced ground-proximity warning system (EGPWS) that can provide warnings of an unstable approach, predicted long landing, inappropriate aircraft configuration, or incorrect altimeter setting. Airlines can select the functionalities they want implemented.
Emirates senior vice-president flight operations Capt Alan Stealey says the airline was extensively involved in the system's development and explains that it effectively extends the protection offered by the runway awareness and advisory system (RAAS), itself an extension of EGPWS, into the air.
The airline, in common with other major carriers, has standard operating procedures calling for the aircraft to be landing-configured at 1,500ft (458m) above airfield level, stable at 1,000ft with some flexibility in visual conditions, and a mandatory go-around if still not stable by 500ft in any conditions.
SmartLanding can be programmed to provide audio and visual alerts at all or any of those points and can additionally warn of an impending long landing, for example in the case of an increasing tailwind component close to the runway.
Stealey says: "On a normal approach the system will give no warnings whatsoever. It is only when you go outside the parameters that you get a warning."
He says he is happy that the additional alerts will not increase pressure on pilots at critical times and notes: "Some of the changes you can get in the approach can be quite insidious - for example increasing tailwind. If you float and have an extended flare then it will tell you that."
A late alert of that kind gives the possibility of going around right up until touchdown, or even shortly after touchdown, provided the aircraft is still appropriately configured, Stealey points out.
Emirates hopes to have the software from Honeywell as soon as the third quarter of this year and regulatory approval about the same time.
Stealey thinks the entire fleet of 125 aircraft, apart from the Airbus A380, can be equipped by year-end and the 2,200-strong pilot force trained in line with that. A final decision is yet to be taken, but he believes pilots can be trained using DVD course material rather than having to use simulator time.
The A380 avionics configuration does not immediately allow SmartLanding to be integrated, but Stealey says Emirates is working with Airbus on a solution.