A New Route to Ease Plane Congestion

A glimmer of hope for frequent fliers in the US, if the FDA can get off their asses and dance with the new technology

U.S. airlines and the FAA are phasing in a new navigation system that has already proved it can reduce weather delays, shave minutes off flight times and reduce noise pollution on the ground.

“Required Navigation Performance,” or RNP, is already in use in parts of China, Australia, Canada and Alaska. U.S. airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration are working to expand it to major U.S. airports. Southwest Airlines, for example, will have all its planes and pilots ready next year. Washington’s Reagan National Airport already has an RNP procedure in place.

The plan in the U.S. is to attack the most congested cities first, starting with New York and Chicago. “We’ll apply it where the need is greatest to start,” said Victoria Cox, FAA senior vice president for “NextGen” air-traffic modernization.

Think of RNP as precision navigation. Using two different kinds of standard navigation equipment, the newest generation of Boeing and Airbus jets have the ability to fly an exact path with deviation of no more than the wingspan of the airplane. RNP routes take advantage of that equipment by creating very precise flight paths that require computers on board to alert pilots if the plane strays. No ground-based equipment like radar and instrument landing systems is needed. The plane’s autopilot can put the aircraft at an exact position within seconds of an assigned time.

[Click to continue reading A New Route to Ease Plane Congestion – WSJ.com]

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