Go Direct, Young Man ...

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... and it doesn’t appear to matter if it’s west or east. Under the FAA’s "performance-based" navigation, airlines would be free to use satellite guidance instead of ground-based navaids, allowing more direct flights and saving the airlines millions of pricey petrol dollars. Last week, the FAA's Performance-Based Operations Aviation Rulemaking Committee (PARC) released the second version of the "Roadmap for Performance-Based Navigation." The newly updated information includes how the FAA plans to proceed and lays out the dates for mandates on the types of equipment that will be needed by not only the airlines, but business aircraft and other GA operators. In the short term, the feds will take advantage of avionics and satellite technology already deployed, including RNAV procedures and instrument departures and arrivals already in place at some major U.S. airports. In addition to RNAV, which could eventually be available throughout the continental U.S., required navigation performance (RNP) procedures will also play a major role. The first RNP was recently enacted at Reagan Washington National in Washington, D.C.

Work is proceeding much faster than planned. Initial FAA plans called for 30 RNAV arrival and departure procedures for fiscal 2006, but that number will be closer to 63. The plan also called for five public RNP procedures, but that number could be as high as 30. By 2011-2015, RNAV approaches and departures will be active at many of the busiest 100 airports. The FAA believes about 85% of aircraft that fly into airports with RNAV approaches have the necessary equipment to handle them, but only 30% have the equipment necessary for RNP ops. Federal rulemaking will happen in 2008 as discussions turn serious about mandating that additional equipment.

As the new technology is being brought online, the FAA will look to discontinue the older navaids as a way to save money. The old VORs, DMEs, and NDBs are maintenance and money hogs and the feds would love to wash their hands of them. Look for a fight when that begins to happen. By 2015, they’ll decide whether to shut down VORs entirely.