On February 23, 2012, I was aboard LAN Airlines flight 2022, which inaugurated Latin America’s first continuously guided flight from takeoff to landing using Performance-based Navigation (PBN) technology. GE supported the Green Skies of Peru project, a collaborative effort among LAN, Peru’s air navigation service provider CORPAC and regulator DGAC, by helping to provide aircraft flying from Cusco to Lima a highly efficient, predictable flight path from liftoff of runway 10 in Cusco to touchdown on Lima’s runway 15.
The Green Skies of Peru project is a notable milestone in the global effort to modernize today’s obsolete airspace infrastructure to match the capabilities of today’s modern aircraft systems. Deploying a continuous PBN city pair flight path creates additional predictability and continuity throughout the entire flight, compared to a single PBN arrival or departure path, while solving operational challenges at the individual airports.
The GE-designed PBN departure, en-route, arrival and approach procedures will save participating airlines on average 19 track miles, 6.3 minutes (7 minutes actual), 450 pounds of fuel and 1,420 pounds of CO2 emissions per flight. The new flight paths also enable increased capacity at Lima’s Jorge Chavez International Airport – a major hub in Latin America – while helping to reduce the carbon footprint at Cusco, the access point to the popular tourist destination Machu Picchu. LAN flies the route 11-17 times a day, depending on the season.
With the success of this demonstration flight, a formal trial will commence allowing the team to validate the benefits and the paths under various operating conditions and finalize the deployment plan.
In 2009, GE, in collaboration with IATA, designed and deployed Required Navigation Performance (RNP) approach procedures for LAN at Cusco to improve access into the airport that is flanked by the Andes Mountains. Prior to the RNP paths, it was typical for one or more of LAN’s 15-21 scheduled flights per day into Cusco to be delayed or diverted due to poor weather and low visibility. Since the RNP paths have been in use at Cusco, LAN has reduced cancellations from twelve to five, flight delays by 45% and un-stabilized approaches by 94%, per month on average. During the first year of RNP use at Cusco, more than 30,000 of LAN Peru´s passengers avoided flight cancellations or delays, thanks to the technology. With the success of the Cusco paths, LAN selected GE Aviation in 2010 to develop an RNP program at five other airports it serves, including Lima.
I went to Peru to participate in and witness this historic event, the inaugural flight. What I wasn’t expecting, was the amazing level of passion and enthusiasm at the personal level among the LAN personnel in particular. It was more than what you’d see or expect in a business transaction or any mere technical demonstration. At the reception following the flight, many speakers, beginning with the CEO of LAN, expressed their genuine excitement and enthusiasm over the transformation of their flying operations, and how those benefits translate into advantages for the people and environment of Peru.
It took me back to those enthusiastic days at Alaska Airlines 20 years ago. I was 29 when I first started the work on the Juneau RNP project. And I celebrated my 49th birthday just a day prior to the flight in Peru. I had not thought of it this way before, but in a way I realized – spreading RNP around the globe has been my life’s work.
I want to share part of a speech given at the reception by Captain Christian Staiger of LAN Airlines. It captures for me the emotion of the day and paints a picture of what RNP does.
“People say that when a man lifts his feet off the ground, he shares his history with the rest of the world. Borders can’t be drawn on the sky, and we the aviators, have replaced them with a friendly greeting of welcome and farewell through our modern communications systems each time we cross a frontier.
When the sun god Inti decides to shine on our crops, it never asks who the growing wheat belongs to. Migrating birds only look for warmth and a proper place to settle down their nests. Navigators through history have always observed stars to plot their positions on the maps. Today some modern stars with precise electronic timepieces on board orbit our planet and can be observed from every corner on earth, day and night, on clear or clouded skies, available for every airplane with the proper equipment on board….
The flight has been perfect. The shortest route possible is the one that has been flown. The precision of the navigators is such that the maximum error is limited to the distance of a wingspan. From this flight on, variance and dispersion can be eliminated. If you allow my analogy, we can say that a straight railway line has been traced between these cities that can be used by all appropriate modern aircraft.
Today’s historic milestone has many passports. We have chosen the sky that covers the land of Peru, to honor our sincere engagement with the environment. The flight Cusco-Lima joins not only our aeronautical histories under a common brotherhood; it also does it with the histories of all cultures that have inhabited these lands. The wisdom of our common Inca ancestors in dialog with scientific knowledge of present days.”
You can watch a demonstration of Green Skies of Peru here.
Click here to see photos.