Two airlines get nod to use performance-based system

The US move towards a performance-based navigation system has taken a step forward with the US Federal Aviation Administration approval for Delta Air Lines to use any required navigation performance (RNP) approach procedure in the USA. Also, Continental Airlines has been approved to use a new lower-visibility approach to Quito, Ecuador - the first foreign RNP procedure endorsed by the FAA.

Performance-based navigation defines en-route and approach requirements in terms of aircraft navigation capability. The FAA has so far published 128 area-navigation (RNAV) procedures at 38 airports, and 37 RNP approaches at 17 airports. The latest is an RNP approach to New York Kennedy, used by JetBlue Airways, that provides lower approach visibility minimums.

Delta is only the second carrier, after pioneer Alaska Airlines, to be approved to use all RNP approaches in the USA, says FAA associate administrator for aviation safety Nick Sabatini. Approval is initially for Delta's Boeing 737s, he says, but several other airlines and aircraft are in the pipeline. JetBlue is the first Airbus operator to use RNP, while Horizon Air is the first regional following approval for an RNP approach to Portland, Oregon using Bombardier Dash 8 Q400s.

The FAA plans to publish at least 25 more RNP approach procedures by the end of next year, by which time it plans to have developed RNAV procedures for all the airports in its operational evolution plan. More-accurate RNAV departures at Atlanta, Georgia and Dallas/Forth Worth, Texas are already saving money, increasing capacity and reducing noise and emissions, says the FAA.

RNP is a cornerstone of the FAA's next-generation air transport system, and the agency is also developing required communication performance and required surveillance system standards, the latter to be based on automatic dependent surveillance - broadcast.

Source: Flight International