Alaska Airlines Pursues ‘Greener Skies’ Project At Seattle-Tacoma Airport

Carrier Alaska Airlines and partners have launched a "greener skies" initiative at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, incorporating Required Navigation Performance (RNP) approaches and optimized profile descents (OPD) to wring operational and financial efficiencies out of the system.

The airline, Boeing, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, the Port of Seattle and FAA are working on a public RNP procedure that could potentially be used for about 85 percent of the airport’s daily operations, according to the airline. Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen is designing the approach.

The group plans to submit the RNP approach to FAA for approval by early next year and hopes to begin flights by late 2010. Alaska Airlines started flight tests in June of a Boeing 737-700, and said it planned to host a demonstration flight for FAA officials in August.

Alaska Airlines says its entire fleet of 116 Boeing 737s is RNP capable. Sister airline Horizon Air will equip its fleet of 55 Bombardier Q400s and CRJ-700s by next year.

Megan Lawrence, Alaska Airlines managing director of government and community affairs, described the Greener Skies project as "more ambitious and more cutting edge" than using traditional RNP approaches.

"This is a real change in how traffic is managed," Lawrence said. "This is something that could be replicated at airports across the country."

For now, the team is focused on rolling out the initiative in Seattle, an Alaska Airlines hub. "We have our work cut out for us in Seattle," Lawrence said.

Alaska Airlines estimates the Greener Skies initiative will cut fuel consumption by 2.1 million gallons annually and reduce carbon emissions by 22,000 metric tons.

"With FAA approval, we hope the procedures will be available for all carriers and gradually integrated into the Seattle air-traffic system," said Gary Beck, Alaska Airlines vice president of flight operations. – Emily Feliz


‘Privatization’ Warning

The union representing FAA technicians and inspectors has issued a warning against "the privatization of flight procedures development" and argued for more government control in the roll-out of performance-based navigation routes and procedures.

In testimony July 29 before the House Aviation Subcommittee, Tom Brantley, president of the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists, AFL-CIO (PASS), said carriers have accelerated the development of Required Navigation Performance (RNP) procedures to align themselves with FAA’s "best-equipped, best-served" policy for realizing the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen). But considering the many factors involved in developing such procedures, he said a "quota" approach to producing some 200 RNP routes annually "is unrealistic, very likely unachievable and would not be based on the potential safety, capacity and operational benefits to the overall" National Airspace System (NAS).

PASS represents 11,000 FAA and Department of Defense employees, including flight procedures development specialists in FAA’s Aviation System Standards (AVN) branch, who design and develop instrument flight procedures.

Brantley said the development of special-use navigation procedures meant for the benefit of the operator developing them are problematic at the busiest airports, as opposed to public-use procedures developed by FAA for qualified airspace users.

"Areas in which industry may realize the greatest benefit are also some of the busiest airports in the country," Brantley said in written testimony. "That means that a special-use procedure developed for the benefit of a single user must be integrated into the overall management of the airspace, which may not always satisfy the ‘best-equipped, best-served’ philosophy.

"If one carrier has an approved special-use procedure, does it now have priority over all other airspace users, regardless of how many other users there are? In other words, if a special-use procedure interacts with or overlaps a public-use procedure, does the lone special-use carrier take priority over all other users of the airspace?"

The testimony cites the use of third-party vendors in developing special-use RNP procedures and adds FAA "has been pressured" to contract out the development of public-use procedures as well. Offering an example of the problems that can result from using third-party vendors, Brantley said privately contracted RNP work at two airports, Raleigh-Durham International and Boise Air Terminal/Gowen Field, "had to be redone by AVN employees."

"It is in the development of special-use procedures where the use of third parties has historically taken place, although the demand has never been as high as it is today. Carriers have begun to drastically increase the development of special-use procedures for their individual benefit," Brantley testified. "… PASS is very concerned that the FAA will allow the introduction of mass quantities of third-party developed and self-certified flight procedures into the NAS without the protections in place that are established under Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) Part 97, FAA orders and other directives, all of which establish the FAA’s responsibility to guarantee the safety of flights within the U.S. airspace.

"If allowed to proceed unchecked, as many have advocated," Brantley warned, "the privatization of flight procedures development and oversight will virtually erase the present standard of integrity of the instrument flight procedures infrastructure in our current and future NAS."

RNP Program ‘Difficult’

Required Navigation Performance (RNP) is vital to achieving the Next Generation Air Transportation System, but implementing RNP is both challenging and expensive. Nevertheless, RNP is not being introduced fast enough in the United States.

This was the message delivered by executives from Southwest Airlines, Jeppesen, FAA, the Air Transport Association and MITRE Corp., who also testified July 29 before the House Aviation Subcommittee in Washington.

"Our RNP program is, without a doubt, the most complicated and time-consuming project that Southwest has ever embarked upon," testified Jeff Martin, Southwest Airlines senior director, Flight Operations. "Southwest Airlines has learned that it’s difficult, complicated and expensive to implement RNP."

Southwest Airlines is undertaking a six-year, $175 million, fleet-wide RNP program, which includes outfitting its fleet of more than 500 737s, training its nearly 6,000 pilots and designing the procedures. Martin testified that 66 percent of the fleet is RNP-capable. Over the next four years, Southwest will retrofit the remaining 215 737-300s with GPS receivers, upgraded software and displays. In July, the carrier said it successfully implemented autothrottles and vertical navigation modifications, allowing pilots to fly at more precise speeds and utilize optimum decent profiles.

"Countries like Canada and Australia have been much more aggressive in accelerating the deployment of efficient RNP flight procedures and incentivizing their carriers to become equipped to fly these procedures," Martin said. "We believe now is the time for the United States to reclaim its traditional status as the pacesetter in the development, deployment and use of advanced aviation technologies. RNP is a great place to start."

In addition, Southwest said it is not responsible for investing more in further development of RNP until "there is more certainty that the other stakeholders in this enterprise are meeting their commitments in a timely manner."

Martin called on FAA to require that useful RNP procedures be designed, starting with the nation’s busiest airports; establish a standard to determine whether an RNP procedure is "useful;" establish and revise, where appropriate, aircraft separation standards; address the environmental impact of RNP in a timely manner; and integrate NextGen-capable and traditional flights.

NextGen Architecture

FAA and the Network Centric Operations Industry Consortium (NCOIC) in July entered into an agreement to advance the Enterprise Architecture of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen). The agreement is valued at $10 million over five years.

The NCOIC will analyze and evaluate NextGen enterprise architecture views, products, plans, net-centric patterns and operational concepts. It will develop "voice of industry" recommendations about applying net-centric standards to the NextGen procurement.

NCOIC said the agreement supports a forum for peer review, through which industry can provide its expertise to FAA throughout the NextGen lifecycle. FAA will remain the final authority on enterprise architecture decisions.

"We anticipate that the standards recommendations, best practices and net-centric pattern development derived from our collaboration will strengthen NextGen’s requirements," said Terry Morgan, NCOIC executive chairman. "Our recommendations will be founded on the thoughts of multi-national, multi-industry leaders in net-centricity."

The NCOIC is a not-for-profit association committed to the rapid, global deployment of network-centric applications. It consists of 75 member organizations from 18 nations.

Aerobahn Atlanta

The city of Atlanta’s Department of Aviation (DOA) selected the Aerobahn airport automation and management tool from Sensis Corp., Syracuse, N.Y., to provide a comprehensive view of airport surface traffic at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

The Web-based Aerobahn service combines airside operational information, such as flight schedules, with the exact location and identification of aircraft and vehicles on the airport surface. A dedicated Sensis Multistatic Dependent Surveillance multilateration infrastructure covering the entire airport will provide the position data to Aerobahn.

Airlines and FAA will have access to the service through DOA, with the ability to customize it with their operational data. Users can observe departure queues, view actual arrival demand and contrast the demand with available gates for arriving aircraft. They also can set Aerobahn to provide a visual alert when performance thresholds, such as taxi-out times, are met or exceeded. All events are recorded for future playback.

By using the system, airport stakeholders will be able to collaborate and make decisions that enhance efficiency and reduce delays, Sensis said.

"Atlanta will be adopting a NextGen surface management solution by employing Aerobahn’s ability to share critical operational information in real-time among key airport stakeholders," said Tony Lo Brutto, Sensis Air Traffic Systems vice president and general manager. "In addition, Aerobahn provides the airport and airlines with a host of metrics that will facilitate further efficiency improvements."

Sensis said Aerobahn customers include Continental Airlines at Houston Intercontinental and Newark Liberty International Airports; Northwest Airlines at Detroit Metro and Minneapolis – St. Paul International Airports; FAA, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and authorized airlines at John F. Kennedy International Airport; the Port of Seattle at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport; Service de la Navigation Aerienne for Paris Orly and Charles de Gaulle Airports; and the Civil Aviation Department for Hong Kong International Airport. The system also will be deployed at Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney airports in Australia.

ASDE-X Installations

The Airport Surface Detection Equipment, Model X (ASDE-X), a runway incursion detection and alerting system, from Sensis Corp., became operational in August at Los Angeles International Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. Seventeen airports are operational with ASDE-X of the 35 airports designated by FAA.

ASDE-X combines surface movement radar, multilateration and Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast to provide real-time position and identification data from the airport surface.

Air Berlin GBAS

The German Aerospace Center opened an experimental Ground Based Augmentation System (GBAS) station at Brunswick, Germany, with support from Air Berlin. The GBAS system installation is provided by Thales.

"The precision of GBAS approaches is impressive and exceeds our expectations," Marc Altenscheidt, chief of Air Berlin’s Boeing fleet, said on completion of validation flights for the new station. "This new approach procedure opens up interesting possibilities for us. We are testing this system on our Boeing 737NG fleet with the aim of accelerating its development."

Pitot Replacement

Aero-Instruments announced Aug. 4 that FAA had approved its 0851HL-AI Pitot Probe as a replacement part on Airbus aircraft, culminating 18 months of test and evaluation.

In granting Parts Manufacturer Approval (PMA), FAA concluded the pitot probe meets or exceeds certification based on the requirements of TSO C-16A, including the icing requirements outlined in SAE AS393, AS8006 and BS2G.135, Aero-Instruments said.

"After 18 months of rigorous testing, the FAA’s approval of our replacement Pitot Probes for Airbus-manufactured commercial aircraft is a significant milestone for Aero-Instruments," said Ryan S. Mifsud, vice president and general manager. "The ability to deliver such a high performance product and superior customer service is a source of pride for our company."

Each Airbus commercial aircraft has three pitot probes, which serve as the primary air speed sensing components and are designed with integrated electrical heaters to prevent icing.

Aero-Instruments received its first FAA certification for replacement parts for Boeing commercial aircraft in 2006.

Broadband License

Row 44, of Westlake Village, Calif., said Aug. 6 it received a permanent operating license from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), allowing it to provide airborne Internet service in the United States.

Row 44 previously was granted a license to operate in Canada and a right-to-operate agreement in Mexico.

"Today’s announcement of the FCC’s ruling signals a major victory for Row 44 and our airline customers in our vision of bringing affordable broadband to the skies," said Row 44 CEO John Guidon.

The Row 44 system will support in-flight mobile phone calls and SMS text messaging, not currently allowed in North America. The company said it intends to offer these services to airline customers "wherever such activities are permitted and requested by airlines."

Gogo Pricing

Aircell launched two pricing options for its Gogo In-flight Web service: a Flight Pass for short-haul flights, at $5.95; and a 24-Hour Pass for flights on a single airline, at $12.95. The latter option initially is available on AirTran and Delta flights.

Aircell also offers a Gogo 30-Day Pass, allowing unlimited use of the service over a 30-day period on a single airline for $49.95. This pass is available on Delta, Virgin America and AirTran.

BAe ATP Upgrade

Universal Avionics, Tucson, Ariz., and its marketing alliance partner DAC International will provide glass cockpit upgrades for a fleet of British Aerospace (BAe) ATPs operated by West Atlantic, which flies 41 of the turboprops. The installation and certification, which will be completed by a partnership between West Atlantic and Scandinavian Avionics, includes a five-panel suite of EFI-890R Flat Panel displays and Vision-1 Synthetic Vision System (SVS) from Universal Avionics. EASA approval is expected by early 2010, Universal Avionics said.

The EFI-890R displays will replace the aircraft’s existing EFIS system.

The navigation display will support the high-resolution graphic output of the aircraft’s existing Universal Terrain Awareness and Warning System and the Vision-1 SVS. The upgrade also features an Engine Interface Unit and center engine display that will replace older electromechanical indicators.


Garmin G500

Garmin in July introduced a new avionics suite — the G500 — billing it as an affordable way for Part 23 aircraft to upgrade to all-glass cockpits.

At EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wis., Garmin, of Olathe, Kan., said the G500 received FAA Approved Model List Supplemental Type Certification, allowing it to be installed in 600 different aircraft models. The G500 is similar in design to Garmin’s G600 suite, incorporating primary flight and multifunction displays.

"We believe many who purchase a G500 are already flying with WAAS-enabled GNS 400/500 systems, so using the G500 will feel like second nature," said Gary Kelley, Garmin vice president of marketing.

‘Digital Parachute’

Hawker Beechcraft Corp. (HBC) announced the successful flight and landing of a Beechcraft Bonanza single-engine piston airplane with an experimental autolanding device supplied by Rockwell Collins Control Technologies.

The tests were part of HBC’s program to develop advanced flight-control technologies for future use in general aviation aircraft. The company said a modified Bonanza conducted a series of hands-off landings during tests in Wichita, Kan. The aircraft was equipped with an experimental fly-by-wire flight control system and carried a crew of three to observe and monitor system operation and provide backup control capability. Further testing was planned.

Flight guidance and control cues were provided by a Rockwell Collins Athena 411 flight-control system, combining INS/GPS, AHRS, air-data system and flight-control capability in a single unit. Rockwell Collins engineers customized the Athena 411 system for the Bonanza platform; HBC engineers integrated it with the fly-by-wire system.

"This project with Hawker Beechcraft shows what is possible by leveraging our UAS technology to potentially serve as a digital parachute in emergency situations," said David Vos, Rockwell Collins senior director, Control Technologies.

"While we are still in a demonstration phase, we’re excited about our continued work with Hawker Beechcraft as we look for opportunities to further enhance safety in a future airspace where manned, unmanned and optionally manned aircraft can coexist."

SwiftBroadband Install

Aircell in July said it had received full certification of its new SwiftBroadband solution and started customer shipments. The first installation was being performed on a Dornier 328 Jet by 328 Support Services GmbH at Oberpfaffenhofen, near Munich. The jet is operated by Aviando Services of Venezuela.

Thrane & Thrane A/S, of Denmark, is providing cabin system components for the SwiftBroadband service.

As part of the installation, the aircraft will be equipped with Aircell’s SwiftBroadband solution and Aircell Axxess cabin system. A subsidiary of Quest Aviation, 328 Support Services is the type certificate holder for the Dornier 328 jet and turboprop. Aircell’s SwiftBroadband solution in May was selected by private jet club Jet Republic, of Lisbon, Portugal, for fleetwide installation on 110 Bombardier Learjet 60 XRs ordered in 2008. This is the largest order placed for SwiftBroadband systems, Aircell said.

Helicopter PFD

Aspen Avionics, Albuquerque, N.M., introduced its first offering for the rotary wing market, the EFD1000H Pro Helicopter Primary Flight Display (PFD). The company made the announcement at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wis.

The PFD includes an attitude indicator with airspeed and altitude tapes, altitude alerter, altitude trend vector and electronic HSI with dual bearing pointers and symbolic moving map with flight plan waypoints and leg overlays. When connected to a GPS navigator, it also presents a full-time visual indicator of winds aloft direction and speed.

Its first supplemental type certificate (STC) will cover the Bell 206 Jet Ranger and Long Ranger, and Eurocopter AS350 A-Star. Aspen said it was working on additional STCs to cover other piston and turbine light helicopters.


TacView Selection

Esterline CMC Electronics was awarded a contract by BAE Systems to supply its TacView portable mission display for U.S. Navy C-130T aircraft. The contract value was not disclosed.

The Navy currently operates 19 C-130T tankers. It intends to employ two TacView systems per cockpit installation to facilitate paperless cockpit functionality, including aircraft data, procedure manuals and interactive electronic charts, CMC said.

TacView consists of a rugged, self-contained, NVG-compatible smart display and companion power supply/interface module. The sunlight-readable 5-by-7 inch display features an integrated sliding keyboard, film-on-glass touch sensitive screen and bezel keys.

The TacView Portable Mission Display’s design is based on CMC’s PilotView electronic flight bag. Lockheed Martin recently selected TacView to meet current and future C-130J Mobile Display System requirements.

Typhoon Tranche 3A

Partners in the Eurofighter program signed a €9 billion production contract for 112 further aircraft and 241 engines under the Tranche 3A program.

The contract, announced July 31, was signed by the NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency (NETMA), Eurofighter GmbH and Eurojet Turbo GmbH, involving partner nations Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Tranche 3 of the Eurofighter program is expected to consist of 236 total aircraft, produced in A and B segments, between 2012 and 2017. However, Britain agreed to acquire just 40 Tranche 3A aircraft, less than half of its allotment for the final tranche, and had not committed to Tranche 3B.

The latest contract includes €1.4 billion for EJ200 turbofans built by the Eurojet consortium, comprised of Italy’s Avio, ITP of Spain, MTU Aero Engines of Germany and Rolls-Royce of the U.K. A total of 559 Typhoons are under production contract, including 15 for Austria and 72 for Saudi Arabia, according to Eurofighter GmbH.

B-2 Radar Demo

Northrop Grumman and the U.S. Air Force in July demonstrated the new active electronically scanned array radar developed for the B-2 Spirit bomber.

Northrop Grumman said it passed the second of two Air Force audits of the B-2 Radar Modernization Program (RMP), known as verification compliance reviews.

In February 2009, Northrop Grumman passed Verification Compliance Review (VCR)-1, which audited the company’s testing of the B-2 radar’s hardware and basic operational modes. VCR-2, which confirmed the company’s results for the testing of the radar’s strategic mission modes, was completed in mid-June.

"The completion of VCR-2 means that we’ve successfully translated the Air Force requirements for this new radar into a system that meets the B-2’s mission requirements," said Mike Galaway, director of Northrop Grumman’s B-2 Radar Modernization Program.

"Additional independent government testing remains to be done, but passing this milestone gives us the confidence that the new system will be suitable for the fleet."

Raytheon Space & Airborne Systems, of El Segundo, Calif., led the development of the new radar hardware under contract to Northrop Grumman.

Alteon Renamed

Boeing in August changed the name of its training organization from Alteon to Boeing Training & Flight Services.

The airframer said the name change reflects the division’s expanded capabilities for providing flight, maintenance, cabin safety and flight operations training.

"Boeing Training & Flight Services reflects the commitment of Boeing to provide our customers the resources and technical expertise they need to enable safe and efficient operations," said Sherry Carbary, vice president of the new organization.

Unmanned Systems

UAS Integration Study

GE Aviation and FAA in August signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRDA) to assess the integration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in the National Airspace System, and adapting trajectory-based operations (TBO) for unmanned aircraft.

The simulation, which will be conducted at FAA’s William J. Hughes Technical Center in Atlantic City, N.J., will begin this fall and continue for two years.

GE Aviation said it will adapt its flight management system to achieve trajectory-based control of unmanned aircraft, including demonstrations of an AAI Shadow Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System.

The demonstrations will show the ability to integrate certified flight management capability into existing U.S. military UAS.

"Under this agreement we will be accomplishing an aviation first by completing the research to facilitate flight of an unmanned aircraft system with an FAA certified, trajectory-based flight management system," said Chris Beaufait, GE Aviation president of Avionics.

"Safe integration of UAS into our national airspace will include trajectory-based flight management as an enabler. This CRDA directly supports development of the FAA NextGen Air Traffic Management System."

Fury ‘Thunderstorm’

AeroMech Engineering, of San Luis Obispo, Calif., and Chesapeake Technology International Corp. (CTI), of California, Md., said they demonstrated a medium-power electronic attack (EA) capability in July using AeroMech’s Fury long-endurance UAV.

The Fury platform was modified to accommodate CTI’s Thunderstorm EA system (above), and performed two flights at an airfield in the state of California the week of July 27. With a wingspan of 12 feet, Fury provides 23 pounds of payload capacity, is capable of being flown with gas or heavy-fuel engines and provides up to 400 watts of continuous payload power, the companies said.

Bat Relay

Northrop Grumman said it demonstrated a communications relay payload for a government customer during multiple flights of its Bat unmanned aircraft system. The tests were conducted June 23-26 at Naval Air Facility, El Centro, Calif.

The communications relay payload was demonstrated on an air vehicle with a wingspan of 10 feet.

The Bat product line has wingspans ranging from 6.5 to 33.2 feet. Northrop Grumman is integrating several new payloads, a common ground control architecture and air vehicle upgrades that include a new engine, a new launcher capability and several air vehicle capability enhancements.

"We are extremely pleased with the results of these flights, which were conducted in a realistic, desert theater setting," said Corey Moore, Northrop Grumman vice president of Advanced Concepts-Air and Land Systems.


  • ITT Corp. was awarded a $66.8 million contract by FAA’s Air Traffic Organization to define, engineer and implement the next generation of airport terminal air-traffic control systems. The contract is for one base year with three, one-year options. Work will be performed out of ITT’s Washington, D.C., office.

  • Raytheon was awarded a $41.8 million contract modification from the U.S. Navy for the procurement of 14 full rate production lot Advanced Targeting Forward Looking Infrared Pods and associated spares for the Swiss F/A-18 program. Work will be performed in McKinney, Texas, and El Segundo, Calif., and is expected to be completed in 2011.

  • Elbit Systems Ltd., of Haifa, Israel, signed an agreement to acquire the assets of BVR Systems Ltd., for $34 million, subject to approvals, Elbit announced July 20. BVR Systems Ltd. is involved in the development and production of training, simulation and debriefing systems for air, sea and ground forces.

  • Raytheon was awarded a U.S. Navy contract to develop the Advanced Airborne Sensor (AAS), the follow-on to the Littoral Surveillance Radar System (LSRS). LSRS is operational on Navy P-3C Orions; the AAS will provide airborne radar surveillance with line-of-site capability. As the sensor prime contractor, Raytheon will oversee the mission systems integration, including the development, production and installation of the AAS on the P-8A Poseidon.

  • Honeywell will provide auxiliary power units and a suite of safety and navigational systems for aircraft owned by leasing company AWAS, of Dublin, Ireland. AWAS owns more than 214 aircraft, with a further 129 on order from Boeing and Airbus, including Airbus A350XWBs and Boeing 787s.

  • Northrop Grumman was awarded a contract from ABS Group, a contractor to the U.S. Coast Guard Research and Development Center, to conduct a maritime airborne sensor demonstration using a company-owned MQ-8B Fire Scout tactical UAS. The demonstration will take place this year in the Chesapeake Bay, based from the Naval Air Station at Patuxent River, Md. The demonstration will be used to verify and validate ship-deployed UAS and payload capabilities; during the test, Fire Scout will carry the U.S. Navy’s baseline payload — the FLIR Systems BriteStar II electro-optical, infrared and laser designator/range finder package.

  • Three Twenty Holdings, Ltd., of Bermuda, selected a suite of Rockwell Collins avionics for 25 new Airbus A320s. The suite includes MultiScan Hazard Detection System, GLU-920 Multi-Mode Receiver, ADF-900 Automatic Direction Finder and DME-900 Distance Measuring Equipment.

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