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Fri, Nov 04, 2011

Study Identifies Potential Navigation Improvements For Sun Valley Airport

New RNP Procedures Lower Decision Heights, Visibility Requirements

A study of airspace around Sun Valley Airport has identified significant improvements in airport access that could be achieved during periods of inclement weather with the deployment of new, advanced instrument approach procedures. The study, conducted by GE, found that new procedures, using Required Navigation Performance (RNP) technology, would allow Bombardier Q400 passenger turboprops, like the ones operated by Horizon Air, to operate at Sun Valley on days of low ceiling and visibility that currently force diversions and cancellations.

File Photo

In addition to lowering decision heights and visibility requirements for commercial carriers, new RNP procedures could also provide benefits to general aviation and business aircraft operators at Sun Valley, depending on aircraft type, crew training and performance capabilities.

Based on study findings, the deployment of new optimized RNP approach paths would allow Q400 Turboprops to land at Sun Valley on days during the year when weather conditions currently prevent them from operating. Unlike other possible alternatives for improving access at Sun Valley airport, the deployment of advanced RNP procedures would require no additional ground infrastructure, either on or off the airport property. "The beauty of RNP is that it relies on performance characteristics of the aircraft itself, incorporating GPS, advanced instrumentation and computer-based navigation capabilities, to define a very precise trajectory," said GE Aviation Technical Fellow Steve Fulton. "The technology frees the aircraft from the constraints of ground-based radio-navigation infrastructure," Fulton said. "That means we can continuously improve the procedures without the need to add additional ground-based equipment."

After the RNP procedures are deployed, over time, they could be optimized to further lower decision heights, reduce visibility requirements, and allow RNP operations by multiple aircraft types. GE Aviation's study was conducted in cooperation with Horizon Air and general aviation operators, and was underwritten by airport users who value reliable air service into the Wood River Valley.



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