ATM Modernization, Commercial, Embedded Avionics

Volaris, ALTA Working to Expand PBN in Latin America

By Woodrow Bellamy III  | August 24, 2015
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[Avionics Today 08-21-2015] Mexico, like many countries in Latin America, is in serious need of Air Traffic Management and airspace modernization — and Volaris CEO Enrique Beltranena is looking to make sure that happens. Volaris recently announced it will be leading an initiative in collaboration with Airbus ProSky to deploy Performance Based Navigation (PBN) operations at Tijuana and Guadalajara International Airports. 
Volaris Airbus A320. Photo: Airbus.  
Beltranena said the effort to modernize Mexican airspace actually began five years ago with the deployment of the first PBN procedures at Toluca International Airport in Mexico. Now, the Volaris chief is working with Airbus ProSky to implement a holistic approach: designing Required Navigation Performance (RNP) procedures jointly with the Direccion General de Aeronautica Civil (DGAC) of Mexico and Servicios a la Navegacion en el Espacio Aereo Mexicano (SENEAM). 
"Volaris has 68 percent of its flights going to Tijuana and there we think we can deploy a system which is much more useable because more and more we are starting to see limitations as traffic there continues to grow," Beltranena told Avionics Magazine
According to the FAA, PBN is the use of Area Navigation (RNAV) and RNP to improve airspace access and flexibility, primarily through the use of satellite-based navigation procedures and onboard avionics. Beltranena said Mexico is following the FAA’s NextGen approach of using PBN to define performance requirements for routes and procedures that enable aircraft to navigate with greater precision. 
One of the primary reasons why Volaris wants to introduce PBN at Mexico’s airports is also because of the challenging terrain. 
“Most of the cities that the Aztecas, the Mayas, [and] the Incas found were placed on the top of the mountains. And we are different because of that from the rest of the world. Our airports are by far much more challenging than the airports that you typically find in the U.S., or Europe or the rest of the world,” said Beltranena. “When you think about Machu Picchu, Honduras, Ecuador, when you think about Costa Rica, Guatemala all those runways are very challenging.”
Currently, Volaris is in the midst of a fleet-modernization process that is also focused on ensuring all of its aircraft are equipped to fly RNP. Through 2020, Volaris will receive 60 new Airbus A320s and A321s that were previously ordered between 2012 and 2014. All of those aircraft will roll out of the production factory equipped to fly PBN procedures in Mexico.
"All of these aircraft, the 60 aircraft arriving going forward, will be equipped to fly RNP procedures. The new fleet is already totally retrofitted and it’s coming with the new avionics. It’s about $60,000 per aircraft," said Beltranena. 
Beyond airports in Mexico, Volaris is also working with the Latin America and Caribbean Air Transport Association (ALTA) to modernize airspace throughout other Latin American countries. Air traffic in the region is growing steadily, bringing about the need for modernization. In 2014, Latin American and Caribbean region airlines carried 210 million passengers, an increase from 200 million in 2013. 
"A lot of the work we have done, it’s not only about technology and avionics, but also what is involved with the re-design of the routes. Mexico, and a lot of other airspace in the surrounding region has routes that have been designed in the 1950s," Beltranena explained. 
Like Volaris, airlines throughout the region are equipped and ready to start flying PBN, according to Santiago Saltos, senior industry affairs director for ALTA. But civil aviation regulators and Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) throughout the region will need to follow Mexico’s lead and start providing the infrastructure, controller training, and route re-designs to catch up to that equipage.
"ALTA member airlines have an average fleet age of 7.6 years, so we are flying newer aircraft. One of the messages that we have when we meet with government regulators and ANSPs is to let them know we have the avionics to fly PBN and we need them to catch up," Saltos told Avionics Magazine
"We know the Dominican Republic has just inaugurated two air control towers, Panama has a new air control center, Mexico has done huge investments, Colombia also has done a good job — but we are still missing from some other regions,” said Saltos. “We are addressing this topic with a lot of effort. The more planes we are seeing up in the sky, there is higher risk, more risk events, we are trying to see how we can collaborate and push the region to have a safe air navigation system."

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