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Monday, November 24, 2008

Performance Based Navigation Discussed

Dispatch from Air Safety Week
The aviation industry must accelerate implementation of advanced airspace management technologies to counteract pressure from a public increasingly concerned about the environment, improved schedule reliability and increased safety, according to Chris Manning, former chief pilot at Qantas, who addressed 150 aviation experts gathered in Seattle at the Naverus PBN Summit, an industry-focused forum for airlines and air traffic management organizations that are deploying Performance Based Navigation (PBN) worldwide.

“If you are not involved in PBN in the next five years, you are going to be left behind,” said Ian Brinkworth, of Qantas, which began flying PBN procedures in 2006.

Today, Qantas is saving fuel and enhancing safety at 15 Australian airports. By the end of 2010, Airservices Australia, the country’s air navigation service provider, plans to complete a national PBN network, said Peter Curran, the agency’s manager of National ATC Service Capability. In the Brisbane Green Project trial that began in 2007, Airservices Australia, in partnership with Qantas and Naverus, validated that air traffic management can successfully accommodate mixed PBN and non-PBN traffic.

The United States will soon have an even larger PBN project as Southwest Airlines rolls out PBN routes at every airport it serves. Jeff Martin, senior director of flight operations at Southwest, said the airline is currently training pilots and upgrading aircraft. He predicted Southwest would fly its first PBN flight between Dallas and Houston early next year. Southwest’s PBN initiative is a direct fit with the FAA’s NextGen airspace modernization program, he said.

PBN relies on GPS guidance and advanced flight management systems to guide aircraft on very precise vertical and horizontal tracks. When airlines and air traffic management organizations take advantage of the technology, they can effect reductions in fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. The new PBN-based procedures are an integral part of the FAA's NextGen airspace modernization program and of similar efforts around the world.

Qantas, an early adopter of PBN, has clearly demonstrated its benefits, Manning said. Nevertheless, as a whole, the aviation industry has been slow to adopt. The lack of full implementation is costing more than $8 billion a year in wasted fuel, he said.

Environmental benefits, even more than fuel, will accelerate the pace of change, predicted David Behrens, Director, Safety, Infrastructure and Strategy, for the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Fuel savings and the environment are inextricably linked, he said. Every ton of fuel saved reduces 3.16 tons of carbon dioxide released to the atmosphere. Manning told participants that, because people are concerned about the environment, the general public will have little patience for aviation organizations that delay implementing PBN technologies.

In a major "green" initiative, Southwest Airlines is implementing Performance Based Navigation across its entire system.

WestJet’s PBN capabilities allowed the airline to operate a normal schedule at the resort destination of Kelowna during a busy holiday season when other airlines had to divert aircraft for two days due to poor visibility. “That one instance helped pay for our PBN implementation,” WestJet Technical Pilot David Deere said.

Naverus is designing Required Navigation Performance procedures that will allow Southwest to get maximum benefit from its investment. Southwest's Senior Director of Flight Operations, Jeff Martin, told conference participants the procedures will save fuel and will reduce the fleet's CO2 emissions, an estimated 155,000 metric tons per year.

Martin said Southwest is 100 percent committed to PBN, with the first routes coming on line in 2009.

In his opening remarks, Naverus CEO Steve Forte told conference attendees that PBN has proven its benefits in applications around the world. "The time to adopt Performance Based Navigation is now," he said. "The only question is: How much gas are we going to waste between now and then?"

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