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Boeing and Airbus Working Together to Make NextGen ATC a Reality

If you browse through this blog at all it will become apparent rather quickly that I am a huge proponent of NextGen ATC technology.  Call me crazy, but when it has been proven that there is a system that exists to replace decades old technology to make something more efficient, effective, and safe, I think we should act quickly to implement it.

While it is not happening as quickly as some people would like to see, it is happening.  Just last week Qatar Airways flew a RNP-AR approach into Nepal.  This week Frontier Airlines received certification from the FAA to fly the same types of approaches in the US.

I find it interesting that both of these events share a common trait.  They are both heavily impacted by high terrain.  Nepal is one of the most mountainous countries in the world, and Frontier does a huge amount of business through Denver which is nestled high in the mountains of Colorado.

These applications are where the safety impact of NextGen becomes so apparent.  Navigational aids are all based on line of sight, which makes it incredibly difficult for ground-based navigational aids to be effective in mountainous regions.  While GPS still requires line of sight with satellites, it is much easier to achieve that with the satellites positioned overhead as opposed to the being on the ground where they can easily be blocked by mountains.

While both of these press releases come from Airbus, it is important to note that both Airbus and Boeing are actually working together to make this new system a reality.  On Airbus’s ProSky website, which is essentially their ATC arm, they have a long description of how the two airlines are cooperating to improve the whole system.

Boeing and Airbus are two of the biggest corporate competitors in the world, so to see them work together on something says a lot about its importance.

For those who may not really understand what exactly NextGen is, Boeing has an article that does a great job of explaining some of the most important technology, namely the ADS-B and how it works to improve air travel for everyone involved.

February 5, 2013 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Qatar Airways Flies New Navigational Approach into Tribhuvan International Airport in Nepal

Aviation is a very interesting industry.  Aircraft contain some of the most advanced technology in the world.  Most of the new planes could quite literally land themselves in many cases.  Many aircraft now use fly-by-wire technology where the pilot uses a joystick that sends electronic commands to manipulate the plane’s control surfaces.

It is all absolutely amazing stuff, and a far cry from the wood and canvas Wright Flyer that started it all.  Yet with all of this new technology, most of the airways in the world are directed using decades old equipment.

VORs, TACANs, VORTACs, and even NDBs in some cases, are still used all over the world as radio navigation aids for these multi-million dollar jets.  Despite their age they still do an amazing job keeping the airways safe.  In tandem with air traffic controllers, they keep flying as the safest way to travel period.

Safety is of course at the top of the priority list, but creeping increasingly closer is money, and these old navigational aids don’t offer a whole lot to make flying more efficient.

Enter GPS.

GPS has been around for quite a while, and is already used in diverse ways in aviation.  However, it is not being used to its full capacity, and it is costing everyone money.

GPS has the ability to improve aircraft navigation in ways that will not only make flying more efficient, but make it safer for everyone involved.  Qatar Airways recently flew the first approach into Kathmandu’s airport in Nepal using a RNP-AR (Required Navigation Performance – Authorisation Required) approach in an Airbus A320.  (Airbus’s press release of the occasion can be found below.)

The unique mountainous terrain of the region has always required complex, difficult approaches that can challenge even the most seasoned pilot.  Using this new approach pilots are able to reduce their workload leading to a much safer, and more efficient approach.  The increased efficiency is what makes this approach so valuable for every single airport out there.

The airports in the New York/New Jersey region are not exactly troubled with terrain issues, but it is some of the busiest airspace in the world.  By using the increased accuracy that GPS provides, these airports can utilize their airspace more efficiently, and in turn more safely.

Implementing these procedures is not as simple as having everyone turn on their GPS, but it is imperative that the newly confirmed FAA Administrator, Michael Huerta, do everything in his power to get these procedures in place immediately in order to further improve the safety of the industry, while at the same time providing some financial relief to the airlines.

Press Release
21 January 2013 A Qatar Airways-flown A320 has made this carrier the world’s first to operate an aircraft into the Nepalese capital’s Tribhuvan International Airport within the Himalayan mountain range using a new navigation approach.

The milestone flight took place with the Doha-based airline’s A320 performing an RNP-AR (Required Navigation Performance – Authorisation Required) approach to landing.  RNP-AR enables an aircraft to automatically fly accurate trajectories without relying on ground-based navigation aids, while also optimising airspace utilisation and reducing diversions in difficult weather conditions.

Located in Kathmandu, Tribhuvan International Airport has one of the world’s most complicated landing approaches due to surrounding challenging terrain at its location in the Himalayas.  Flying an RNP-AR approach considerably reduces pilots’ workload and allows them to take full benefit of the advanced navigation equipment installed in the Airbus A320 to easily circumnavigate difficult terrain.

Qatar Airways partnered with Quovadis, the Airbus-owned flight operations services company, and the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal to design and implement the Kathmandu RNP-AR procedure.

Yannick Malinge, Airbus’ Senior Vice President and Chief Product Safety Officer, recognised Qatar Airways on the achievement.

“Airbus always promotes and supports initiatives contributing to improving safety. New technological capabilities like RNP allow aircraft to improve descent trajectory and reduce non-stabilized approaches,” Malinge explained. “Airbus would like to congratulate Qatar Airways and Nepal Authorities for the outstanding results achieved for this RNP-AR project in Kathmandu and we are delighted to have contributed to this major milestone.”

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker said safety was the top priority for the airline. “We pride ourselves on adopting the latest technology across our fleet and operation to ensure we maintain our high standards, vital for any business of our nature,” he added.

January 21, 2013 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.