GE Aviation's flight management technology to be trialled on European and US emissions reduction programmes
Brisbane: RNP track (magenta) compared to conventional RNAV track (yellow)
Tue 10 Aug 2010 – As part of a consortium led by LFV Sweden, GE Aviation is to play an active role in the EU-US AIRE Green Connections project to validate how existing technology can be better utilized and how ground-based operations can be improved to reduce air travel. Under the project, GE Aviation will provide the onboard flight management system (FMS) to predict the optimum flight path for aircraft and facilitate controlled time of arrivals at airports, through Required Navigation Performance (RNP) routes using technology developed by GE’s Naverus business. Evaluations will be carried out on hundreds of SAS commercial flights to Stockholm-Arlanda Airport from later this year and run for 10 months. In June, GE was awarded a contract under the FAA’s CLEEN programme that will see similar FMS technology flight demonstrations in the US involving Alaska Airlines.
Previous operational trials at Stockholm-Arlanda have focused on reducing an aircraft’s track miles once in flight and enabling fuel-efficient continuous descent arrivals. AIRE Green Connections will also encompass the departure phase and single-engine taxiing at the destination airport.
Full gate-to-gate evaluations of 25 flights from Gothenburg-Landvetter Airport to Arlanda are scheduled, along with 75 flights from cruise altitude to Arlanda’s Runway 26 using short approaches to be developed within the project. SAS Scandinavian Airlines Boeing 737 NG aircraft will be used for the trials.
In the Stockholm terminal area, aircraft will fly using a newly designed RNP-AR (Required Navigation Performance - Approval Required) procedure that GE estimates will reduce flight distances by almost 20 nautical miles (37km) compared to today’s shortest approaches and result in fuel savings per flight of around 100kg and CO2 reductions of more than 300kg.
“This project will be the most holistic operational evaluation approach to air travel and air traffic management (ATM) to date,” said Chris Beaufait, GE Aviation’s General Manager, Avionics. “It’s the first time the industry has looked at gate-to-gate performance, with the ability to monitor air traffic control and aircraft efficiencies, plus assess the full operational environment aspects.”
Under the CLEEN programme, GE is working with Lockheed Martin and AirDat to develop advanced FMS functionality that will be installed on Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 aircraft. Collaborative work with Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor for the US En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) system, will demonstrate integration between the airborne FMS and the ground-based air traffic system. GE and AirDat will develop and demonstrate advanced technology to reduce the effects of weather on aircraft fuel consumption and emissions by optimizing the flight paths of aircraft participating in the demonstration flights.
“This is a great initiative with very tangible benefits for so many stakeholders: responsible growth of an essential industry, better asset utilization, lower fuel burn and cost for airlines, fewer delays for passengers and lower emissions and noise for communities,” said GE Aviation Systems CEO Lorraine Bolsinger. “We are committed to bringing our customers savings now with proven products. GE’s FMS optimized descent is an ‘ecomagination’ product that enables increased aircraft capacity along with a potential 5-15% saving for our customers. Through work with our partners, we will be able to realize even greater savings.”
The world’s first RNP procedures were flown in the challenging conditions of southeast Alaska in 1996. In February 2003, Alaska Airlines pilots Steve Fulton, Hal Andersen and entrepreneur Dan Gerrity, founded Naverus to provide RNP and other performance-based navigation (PBN) solutions to a broader constituency. Since then, Washington State-based Naverus, which was acquired by GE Aviation last November, has successfully developed and deployed around 400 RNP procedures worldwide. GE and Naverus have collaborated in the past, providing PBN solutions using GE’s advanced flight management systems.
The real breakthrough for Naverus came in 2007 with a contract from Airservices Australia, together with Qantas, to take part in the Brisbane Green trial and demonstrate how RNP-AR could create immediate reductions in fuel burn, carbon emissions and track distance. Airservices Australia used existing air traffic automation tools to sequence non-equipped aircraft so that they would not conflict with the aircraft flying RNP-AR procedures. During the first twelve months of RNP-AR operations at Brisbane, Qantas credits the procedures with annual savings of 215,000kg of fuel, 650,000kg of CO2, 17,000 air miles and 4,200 minutes of
flying time on its Boeing 737 RNP-AR equipped aircraft. Based on the Brisbane trial, Airservices Australia decided to move ahead with a nationwide network of RNP and is being deployed at 28 major airports throughout the country.
Naverus is now bringing this experience to US airports such as Dallas Love Field, the headquarters of Southwest Airlines, the world’s biggest operator of the Boeing 737. The two companies are partnering on the development of an RNP programme for the airline
The company also recently announced that it will begin RNP work at a sixth Chinese airport, Lijiang, designing highly-precise approach and departure procedures for both Air China and Sichuan Airlines fleets of Airbus A319s. Upon regulatory approval to fly the paths, the procedures will allow the aircraft to arrive and depart the airport through rugged mountainous terrain, even in adverse weather conditions.
The addition of the fourth dimension – time – to latitude, longitude and altitude is at the core of advances in Naverus technology, said co-founder Steve Fulton, now Technical Fellow at the company.
“GE is leading the pack in exceptional time performance – within a 10-second tolerance,” Fulton told GreenAir Online at the recent Farnborough Air Show. “We have never been able to do this in the past. It is now a very precise and synchronized system.”
He said the AIRE and CLEEN programmes will provide important incremental steps in developing the technology still further and sees four-dimensional trajectories as being at the heart of the future US NextGen and Single European Sky air traffic systems.
Naverus claims that if a typical airline fleet of twenty-nine 737NG aircraft could fly GE’s FMS optimized descent procedure 50% of the time it could reduce fuel consumption by over 600,000 gallons and avoid the emission of over 8,000 metric tons of CO2 annually.