Southwest Airlines plans to officially start using wide-scale required navigation performance on 11 January.

RNP allows aircraft to fly more direct and precise paths to cut flight time and fuel consumption. It also enables the use of localiser performance with vertical guidance procedures that require fewer ground-based instrument landing aids, which gives increased access to airports, particularly in low-visibility conditions.

Chief operating officer Mike Van de Ven told investors: "If we can save literally three minutes of flight, we will have, depending on the price of fuel, $25 million, $30 million, $40 million worth of fuel-burn benefits."

While upgrading cockpit avionics to support RNP, the carrier also opted to start using auto-throttle on its Boeing 737-700s, which ensures optimum altitude is maintained throughout cruise. "That change itself probably reduced our fuel costs by about $15 million a year," Van de Ven added.

Southwest Airlines 737-700
  © Southwest Airlines

Source: Flight International