Blog, News
GPS-based air navigation system advancing
March 22, 2011
  • Share
  • By Cathy Proctor
    March 16, 2011

    Work on the next generation of airline navigation systems to route planes across the United States has moved from design to environmental review in Denver, Federal Aviation Administration Officials said Wednesday at the third annual “State of DIA” luncheon downtown.

    Currently, jets – and air traffic controllers – rely on ground-based radio signals as planes fly across the country from airport to airport. Controllers hand off airplanes from one region to another, and planes must stair-step up and down when taking off or landing, rather than following a continuous glide path.

    Switching to satellite-based GPS data and computerized mapping, through a system called Area navigation (RNAV) and Required Navigation performance (RNP), will change that, and is expected to cut the miles the planes must travel, officials from the FAA and Denver International Airport said.

    The project is called NextGen, short for the Next Generation Air Transportation System.

    Cutting those miles will in turn cut the amount of fuel needed for the flight, saving money for the airline – savings and efficiencies that could cut the cost of air travel at DIA and make the airport more attractive to competing airlines, said Kim Day, DIA’s general manager.

    “It creates a system of superhighways for airplanes, with continuous ascent and descent routes rather than stair stepping,” Day said in a keynote presentation.

    At DIA, computerized maps have been completed that will be used to guide planes all the way to the runway, said Mark Phipps, support manager for the Denver’s Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) office for the FAA.

    That level of precision, down to the runway, is further than the mapping that’s been done at any other airport in the nation, he said.

    The system is expected to be turned on at DIA within one to three years, Phipps said.

    Currently, the computerized flight paths have been completed are being studied for environmental impacts. Teams have been out to Denver area parks, such as Cherry Creek State Park, to look at the land and figure out which part of the parks would be best to fly over, if at all, Phipps said.

    Date: 2011-03-16