Airport International News - June 2012
Sea-Tac Satellite-Guided Landing Trials Begin
Posted by Paul Fiddian - Airport International's Lead Reporter on 12/06/2012 - 08:00:00
Back in April, Airport International previewed the groundbreaking satellite-guided landing trials set to take place at Seattle-Tacoma International.
Led by Alaska Airlines, these actually got underway on the night of 11 June, with the first GPS-guided approach taking place at around 2300hrs and several more following it during the next 60 minutes.
The technology now in place at Seattle-Tacoma has been in use by Alaska Airlines for some time but never before in the wider US. Compared to traditional radar-based navigation, this system offers several advantages, foremost its real-time updating capability, giving air traffic controllers an instant picture of aircraft movements in the immediate area.
Satellite-Guided Landing System
The satellite-guided landing system also allows airliners to maintain a constant glide path when approaching to land - a process that uses less fuel than standard landing approaches, which involve straight and level flight in between smaller, spread-out descent patterns.
This modification is likened, by the FAA's Doug Merek, to sliding down a banister rather than walking down stairs.
As a result, the length of each flight will reduce by up to 26 miles and hundreds of thousands of Seattle residents can expect a drop in aircraft noise pollution levels, too.
Sea-Tac Satellite Landing Trials
The Sea-Tac satellite landing trials form part of the Greener Skies Over Seattle programme and this, in turn, is a component of a huge US airport ATC technology overhaul called NextGen. Set to last until late 2012, the landing trials will soon involve other carriers besides Alaska Airlines, too, including US Airways and Horizon Air.
In the immediate future, they'll take place only at night and, to ensure Sea-Tac's staff can handle the change, training's been given to its entire ATC workforce.
"Seattle is uniquely qualified to help bootstrap NextGen going forward", local deputy regional director for the FAA, David Suomi, explained in comments quoted by the Seattle Times. He added: "A clear, decisive, successful application of NextGen anywhere is going to incentivize airports and airlines to move forward."
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