SAA to save with new navigation approach

December 8th, 2014, Published in Articles: PositionIT


South African Airways (SAA) has announced the implementation of a new navigation approach expected to bring huge benefits and savings for the airline. The new method will be used to guide aircraft as they approach airports for landing.

The innovation is in keeping with the airline’s Long-term Turnaround Strategy which emphasises, among others, improving the efficiencies of the airline’s operations across the board. The new navigation approach is hoped to provide improved efficiencies and benefits in time and fuel savings, and enhanced safety by reducing reliance on ground navigation equipment. It is expected to result in potential fuel savings of R6,3-million per year.

SAA head of flight operations Sandy Bayne.

SAA head of flight operations Sandy Bayne.

SAA senior first officer Andrew Smit.

SAA senior first officer Andrew Smit.

The technique, known as Required Navigational Performance – Authorisation Required (RNP-AR), employs curved segments in airliners’ approach to airports to achieve high levels of safety and more efficient flight paths. RNP-AR reduces the distance covered by the aircraft, saving fuel, time and reducing carbon emissions.

Unlike traditional instrument approaches, RNP-AR is not bound by restrictive “straight line” design criteria. Using upgraded navigation systems, RNP-AR equipped aircraft are able to fly more efficient paths as they approach airports and prepare for landing. The innovation is independent of ground-based radio stations.

SAA initiated a pilot programme for RNP-AR technology at Cape Town International Airport in 2009 and, in an African first, put it into operation in early 2013. Research conducted by French company Airbus Prosky showed potential savings of over 690 tonnes of fuel and a reduction of some 230 hours of flight time per year, based on an average saving of 100 kg of fuel per approach and a reduction of two minutes’ flying time for each approach.

RNP-AR allows the aircraft to fly in curved standard instrument departure (SID), standard instrument arrival (STAR) and instrument approach procedures (IAP) to a lateral accuracy level of between 0,1 and 0,3 nm. SID is a navigation procedure which guides aircraft after take-off, while STAR is a navigation procedure which guides the aircraft towards the airport before the aircraft begins the approach.

Airbus Prosky handled the project design and management, with the scope broadened to include the design of RNP-AR SID, STAR and IAP for routes into Cape Town from Johannesburg, Durban and London, and the delivery of operational approval packages and flight operational safety assessments, which is the quality assurance process which ensures that safety is not comprised.

SAA Technical has upgraded its Airbus A319 and six Boeing 737-800 aircraft to RNP-AR 0.3 specification. The recently-supplied Airbus A330-200 and A320 fleet arrived factory-equipped with this technology. The project was undertaken collaboratively among parties including Air Traffic and Navigation Services (ATNS) and the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SA-CAA).

After completion of the design work, visual meteorological conditions (VMC) flight trials were conducted to prove the safety of the technology and to allow pilots and air traffic controllers time to adjust to the new procedures. Full approval was granted to SAA for RNP-AR operations by the SA-CAA in March 2013, making it the first operator in Africa to achieve this milestone. SAA has since achieved approval for the technology in the Seychelles and Brazil. The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval is imminent.

With the success of the technology proven in practice, SAA is working with other operators to provide access to RNP-AR procedures to the aviation industry. The airline has approved the publication of its procedures in the State aeronautical information publication (AIP), granting access to all capable and approved operators.

Contact Tlali Tlali, SAA, Tel 011 978-2298,

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