Bloomberg has a lengthy, general-interest article about the weather-related problems faced by aircraft flying between the northern and southern hemisphere (i.e. AF447):
Violent weather in the region can approximate the supercells that spawn tornadoes in the U.S., which exceed altitudes of 50,000 feet, NOAA’s [Pat] Slattery said.
“We are eons ahead in forecasting convective storms in the central part of the U.S. than we are in forecasting them in the tropics,” said National Weather Service’s [Jason] Tuell. “So much of it takes place over water in the tropics — over the Indian Ocean, Pacific and Atlantic — and there is just much less data available because of that.”
There is also a brief discussion of Honeywell’s “IntuVue” 3D weather radar product:
[Honeywell’s] three-dimensional systems, introduced less than three years ago, are in a small portion of the commercial aircraft fleet, said Chris Benich, director of aerospace regulatory affairs at the world’s largest maker of airplane controls. Among airlines using IntuVue are Cathay Pacific Airways, Air Canada and Singapore Airlines Ltd., while the U.S. Air Force uses it on C-17 cargo planes, according to a list provided by Honeywell. The cost for long-haul aircraft such as the Boeing 777 is about $335,000, said Bill Reavis, a Honeywell spokesman.
Most commercial planes are equipped with two-dimensional radar that requires pilots to manipulate it to get an accurate picture of the weather, Benich said.
“With older weather radars, pilots have difficulty accurately determining the top of significant weather,” Benich said.
Aviation International News has an outstanding wrap-up of the state of flight management systems (FMS) that offer easy pilot control and core capabilities that set the stage for performance-based navigation (PBN).
Flight management systems have never been considered simple pieces of equipment, but the technology is quickly evolving beyond basic navigation and performance functionality to include a host of new capabilities that hold the promise of changing the way pilots fly for the better.
Absent from some of the latest integrated avionics systems are the bezel-mounted control display units (CDU) flight crews have known since the 1970s. Instead, many modern business jets and some of the latest airliners are integrating FMS controls with the flight displays and cursor control devices (CCD), allowing pilots to point and click their way through a variety of menus or drag and drop any portion of their flight route (a technique known as “rubber-banding”) to include or modify a waypoint. The changes are resulting in cockpits that are more intuitive than those of the past–and even those of the present, in many cases–while packing more capability than ever before.
At the same time, hardware and software upgrades available from FMS manufacturers are opening the possibilities for complex, curved RNP (required navigation performance) procedures and the latest WAAS LPV (lateral precision with vertical guidance) approaches. The changes expand the operational capabilities of properly equipped airplanes today while serving as a cornerstone for future operations in so-called NextGen airspace.
Required navigation performance will be a key element of NextGen airspace. The benefit of a so-called RNP SAAAR [special aircraft and aircrew authorization required] approach is that it can carve out a highly precise, curved path through the sky that usually results in lower landing minimums–sometimes much lower. But gaining approval is a costly and complex endeavor requiring submittal of monthly operational reports to the FAA, pilot simulator training and operations manual revisions. Considering that fewer than 100 RNP SAAAR approaches have been published so far, most operators probably won’t go to the trouble of gaining approval until their home airport has an RNP approach. But as more RNP procedures are created, operators who forego such approvals will be at a disadvantage compared with those who are SAAAR compliant.
To assist operators seeking to upgrade to RNP capability, Honeywell has launched Go Direct, a consulting service designed to help business jet operators take advantage of new RNP SAAAR procedures the FAA is adding at scores of airports around the U.S. The agency plans to publish 60 new RNP SAAAR procedures per year for the next two years. Some airports scheduled to receive an RNP approach in the next 12 months include Teterboro, N.J.; Aspen and Eagle, Colo.; Monterey, Calif.; and Scottsdale, Ariz. If your home airport or an airport you use often offers an RNP SAAAR approach, the approval can mean the difference between landing or having to execute the missed approach and consider other options.
The major advantage RNP procedures have over other types of approach is their tighter lateral boundaries, which allow the creation of curved pathways through mountain valleys or by using so-called radius-to-fix (RF) turns to avoid terrain or obstacles. The RNP SAAAR approach to Atlanta DeKalb-Peachtree Airport (PDK) is a good example of the benefits RNP can provide. The approach to PDK’s Runway 2R incorporates a continuous descending turn designed to avoid the tall towers that block the straight-in approach to the field. Due to the east-west flows at nearby Hartsfield-Jackson International, a straight-in ILS or WAAS LPV approach to this runway would be hard to implement, even if the obstacles southwest of the airport were removed.
The Port Authority of NY&NJ has signed an agreement with the FAA and Continental Airlines to launch a test of the Ground Based Augmentation System (GBAS) at Newark’s Liberty airport. In this press release, the Port Authority said EWR will be the nation’s first major commercial hub to install the technology, which allows for tighter spacing and precision approaches by providing supplemental, real-time aircraft position data to controllers.
Continental will pony up $1.1 million to equip 15 aircraft with GBAS gear, while the FAA will chip in $2.5 million. Honeywell will install the ground equipment.
In reporting the story, the north jersey Record newspaper put in a call to the Newark NATCA chapter rep, with the following result
Ray Adams, vice president of the Newark-based chapter of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, welcomed the new technology as long as the GBAS is phased in and backed up by the radar system. He said space debris and other related issues could interfere with the satellite signal.
“It can be disrupted very easily,” he said. “If you lose the signal and you have 5,000 planes in the air, you’re in deep doody.”
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The FAA says it wants to speed up the deployment of avionics that can take advantage of ADS-B technology, and is funding a small demonstration project meant to prove the value of having that data in the cockpit. (FAA Press release) The $9 million effort will be conducted by Honeywell and ACSS, and calls for two planes to be outfitted with a full suite of NextGen gadgetry. Other partners on the project: US Airways (which will work with ACSS), plus Alaska Airlines and JetBlue Airways (which will provide pilots).
A sidenote: ACSS is a joint venture of aerospace IT heavyweights L3 Communications and Thales Group.
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