Somebody in the PR department at Honeywell Aerospace deserves a big bonus this quarter. Fast Company magazine profiled Honeywell’s GBAS (Ground-Based Augmentation System) technology, and basically pronounced it the solution to everything wrong with aviation. The lead itself is telling:
In January, passengers aboard Qantas Airways’ Airbus A380 flagship, the Nancy-Bird Walton, were taken on a slight detour during their final approach to Sydney. The plane swooped by the funeral of the actual Nancy-Bird Walton, Australia’s answer to Amelia Earhart. The plane’s sheer size might have shocked her, but she could have taken the stick and landed safely — the technology hasn’t changed much since the 1930s.
The pilots decided to honor her passing with an aviation first: turning off their ancient instruments and switching on a GPS-guided, all-digital system. Using satellites to continuously calculate its speed, altitude, and proper approach, the hulking plane nimbly touched down only inches off the centerline, the first GPS-powered landing by an A380.
While it’s hard to envision which “ancient instruments” were “turned off” exactly, augmented approach technologies are certainly fair game for a general-interest article on aviation technology.
But while quotes from company reps are plentiful here, there’s no mention of WAAS, performance-based navigation, the growing library of RNAV approaches, existing tailored arrival and CDA procedures, or even ADS-B. Nor are there any contextualizing quotes from third-party ATC or technology experts.
Finally, the sidebar is an impressive PR coup in its own right. Inquiring minds want to know whether this was written by FC’s reporter or by someone at the company:
The advantages of GBAS become more visible when the runway is not. With ILS, air-traffic control spaces planes more widely to account for its imprecision. Taxiing planes must also scoot back from the end of the runway to avoid interfering with radio beams. Honeywell estimates airports lose up to 25% of capacity during bad weather. GBAS renders moot all these causes for delays.