India's aviation sector is one of the fastest growing aviation markets in the world. In the last decade, domestic air traffic has more than quadrupled from 13 million to 60 million while international traffic more than tripled to 40 million. On the flip side, India is already experiencing the effects of increased air traffic, including congestion, extra fuel burn, noise levels around airports and flight delays.
Aviation stakeholders in India have been working to alleviate air traffic congestion through their Future Air Navigation System (FANS) master plan to "modernize the skies" -- part of which is the use of Performance-based Navigation (PBN) technologies that will allow aircraft to fly more accurate, yet flexible, flight paths.
As the cornerstone to airspace modernization efforts, PBN has the ability to bring efficiency, predictability and increased capacity to airspace. These flight paths, which utilize satellite-based navigation technology, have the ability to solve a number of operational issues including improved airport access, reduction in flight time and fuel burn, and simplification of pilot/controller workload.
Required Navigation Performance (RNP) procedures, the highest performing type of PBN, are superior to that of conventional procedures because they are more flexible, require less airspace and can be engineered with aircraft performance in mind. Unlike conventional procedures which utilize a series of straight legs, RNP offers curved flight paths. These curved legs allow it to go around terrain or obstacles that the straight-in localizer of an ILS just can't do. Less space is required for obstacle clearance due to superior track-keeping capability. Finally, paths can be designed to take into account the flight characteristics of a single or group of aircraft performing various maneuvers. RNP procedures can be made to accommodate the profile of a continuous descent approach or the climb gradient of an aircraft with one engine inoperative.
Recently, GE Aviation has worked with airlines, regulators, air navigation service providers (ANSP) and airport authorities to deploy RNP programs that solve specific airspace issues in Malaysia, Jiuzhai, China and Queenstown, New Zealand.
Implementing a Nationwide RNP Program in Malaysia with AirAsia
GE Aviation is deploying the world's first network of ICAO Required Navigation Performance Authorization Required (RNP AR) flight paths designed by a third-party in Malaysia. The program includes GE-designed ICAO 9905 compliant RNP AR approach paths at 15 Malaysian airports. The new flight paths will improve operating efficiencies for AirAsia by reducing track miles and fuel burn while also providing aircraft with precise lateral and vertical arrival and missed approach guidance.
In collaboration with the Malaysia Department of Civil Aviation Authority (DCA), the regulator ANSP, GE is designing and deploying the network of procedures to utilize the performance characteristics of AirAsia's A320 fleet. Work has been completed at the first two airports - Kuching International and Penang International. A preliminary review of Penang airport showed potential flight track miles savings of up to 8 miles for runway 04 and up to 13 miles for runway 22.
Deploying a Common RNP Flight Path for All Airlines Serving Jiuzhai Huanglong Airport
As the third highest airport in China, Jiuzhai is located at 11,311 feet in the Min Shan mountain range and the steep terrain can make airport access challenging, especially during poor weather operations, causing flight delays, cancellations and additional pilot workload. The GE-designed RNP paths, implemented in 2011, improve airport access and payload for operators, while providing an optimized lateral and vertical guidance to the runway. GE harmonized the approach and departure paths to allow for simultaneous operations.
Recently, seven new airlines joined the program and GE is custom-engineering the flight paths for both Boeing and Airbus aircraft variants to ensure the most efficient procedure. This will enable a common RNP path for all airlines while giving each airline the best performance possible for their fleet-type. All 11 scheduled airlines at Jiuzhai will comply with the recent RNP-only operations mandate.
In addition, an RNP to Instrument Landing System (ILS) procedure was implemented at the airport to improve all weather operations. The procedure also connects to a RNP - Authorization Required missed approach, providing a fully contained and guided flight path in the event of a go-around.
"Because of the positive experience and results from the RNP programs at Jiuzhai and other Chinese airports, the CAAC mandated six airports, including Jiuzhai, become 100% RNP capable as of April 1," said Zhu Baosheng, vice president of Jiuzhai Airport. "We can now ensure all operators at Jiuzhai are flying the safest, most accurate flight paths while maximizing aircraft and airspace efficiency and improving on-time arrival rates."
Doubling Hourly Airport Capacity at Queenstown by Redesigning the Airspace
More than a million people a year fly into the vacation destination of Queenstown, New Zealand—the airport has seen a 30% rise in passenger numbers over the past three years alone. New Zealand ANSP Airways New Zealand needed to redesign the airspace to support safety initiatives and capacity increases while greatly improving efficiency in the terrain rich environment where no full-service radar is available.
The cornerstone of the redesign project is the new RNP flight paths that enable concurrent arrivals and departures at the airport. The accuracy of the RNP paths allows air traffic control to confidently manage up to 12 aircraft per hour, compared to five with previous procedures. Controllers can now to monitor arrivals and departures as opposed to continuously providing tactical separation.
GE, Airways and the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority worked closely with the participating airlines to optimize the RNP arrival and departure flight paths, ensuring maximum operational efficiency. The new RNP paths, which were implemented in November 2012, have cut the average flight delay from more than six minutes to less than one minute per flight. The new RNP flight paths were integrated with other non-jet flight paths to streamline traffic, and all airlines are benefiting. Flight delays have been reduced from approximately 2,400 minutes a month to around 200 minutes a month.
With the significant savings already achieved, Airways estimates the following annual savings:
Reduction in delays: 19,200 – 28,800 min
Reduced fuel use: 1,058,200 – 1,587,300 lbs (480,000 - 720,000kg)
Dollars saved through reduced fuel and delays: $630,000 – $950,000
CO2 saved = 3,343,000 -5,015,000 lbs (1,500,000-2,250,000kg)
The initial GE-designed RNP flight paths implemented at Queenstown in 2004 served as mechanism for one aircraft to maneuver through the mountainous terrain on a reliable, repeatable flight path. As Airways undertook a larger airspace redesign, GE was able to redesign the paths, since they are unrestrained by ground-based navigation aids, to accommodate the capacity requirements for current and future air traffic growth.
"Performance-based Navigation, and in particular the RNP AR design criteria that allows curved approach and departure paths to reduce carbon emissions, avoid terrain and noise sensitive areas, are aligned perfectly with Air New Zealand's intent to have the highest possible environmental credentials in the world," said Captain Phil Kirk, PBN program manager for Air New Zealand. "GE Aviation came through with procedures that deliver benefits on all counts. We appreciate that our crew and passengers no longer have gate holding and spend very little time in holding patterns."
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