The Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure asked the DoT’s Office of the Inspector General to assess the FAA’s progress in implementing high value Required Navigation Performance equipment and ATC procedures. The below↓report has some interesting, perhaps unexpected findings.
One would have expected that the FAA was slow in installing the equipment and/or the airlines reluctant to acquire and install the on board systems. Neither was a culprit. The problems, the OIG said, lie in softer elements—ATC and airline training, policies and procedures. Very disappointing, but a finding for which there should be short term solutions.
Of all the NextGen programs which the FAA is working feverishly to implement, the one with the greatest acceptance by the industry is RNP. As shown in the above ↑ diagram, the technology and procedures produce greater efficiency and the tools with which can reduce noise impact on the ground.
The airlines have generally complained about the equipage costs of NextGen, but according to MITRE “about 70 percent of all major airlines’ aircraft are equipped with RNP” (p. 7 of the below↓report). That’s good news.
The FAA has been working hard to install the equipment and to develop the ATC procedures for these “routes. Here the OIG says that “over 100 RNP procedures at 24 of the ‘Core 30’ Airports” are active. That sounds good.
The next statistic is not so positive. Among the “Core Airports” MITRE found that “only about 2 per cent of eligible flights have used the curved RNP approach…” as shown in this table:
That’s very discouraging.
Further in the OIG Report, the “fault” was attributed to the following problems (note: it has been reformatted to make it easier to read):
“Several obstacles hinder FAA’s efforts to increase implementation and use of PBN procedures, including
· outdated controller policies and PBN procedures,
· a lengthy flight procedure development process,
· the lack of standard training for pilots and controllers, and
· the lack of automated controller tools to manage and sequence aircraft with differing equipment and capabilities.
FAA has not overcome these obstacles or quantified user benefits of new procedures. As a result, airspace users will likely remain reluctant to equip with the avionics needed to advance new procedures.”
Yes, the budget disruptions may have had some impact on such spending, but now the Administrator and/or the Chief NextGen Officer must assign the highest priorities to these projects. They might also call in the folks from A4A to ask their members to work jointly to develop and implement, on an expedited basis, the standardized training for these procedures.
Clearly, the airlines have invested in the capital equipment, the cost of training and return on their RNP instruments justify this action. Moving the percentage of RNP use from 2% to a much higher figure will result multiples of environmental and fuel savings benefits.
There is some reason to believe that following the OIG’s advice, the RNP utilization could be much higher within the near term and that would be great.
REPORT: FAA Faces Significant Obstacles in Advancing the Implementation and Use of Performance-Based Navigation Procedures
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