GE, Airways NZ unveil new Q'town flight paths

GE Aviation and New Zealand air navigation service provider Airways New Zealand have completed a redesign of the Queenstown airspace that more than doubles hourly airport capacity.
The cornerstone of the project is the new Required Navigation Performance (RNP) flight paths that enable concurrent arrivals and departures at the airport.
“More than a million people a year fly into Queenstown —the airport has seen a 30% rise in passenger numbers over the past three years alone,” said Giovanni Spitale, general manager of Flight Efficiency Services for GE Aviation. “Airways needed to redesign the airspace to support safety initiatives while greatly improving efficiency in the terrain rich environment where no full-service radar is available.”
The accuracy of the RNP paths allows air traffic control to confidently manage up to 12 aircraft per hour, compared to five with previous procedures. Controllers can now monitor arrivals and departures as opposed to continuously providing tactical separation.
“We engaged a wide group of stakeholders during the project to ensure we were able to simplify controllers’ workload, deploy consistent and predictable flight paths, better utilize the airspace and increase take-off payloads where possible,” said Ed Sims, CEO of Airways New Zealand. “The new RNP departure procedure enables an increased take-off weight on runway 05 of approximately 3,800 lbs.”
With the significant savings already achieved, Airways estimates the following annual savings:
Reduction in delays: 19,200 – 28,800 min
Reduced fuel use: 1,058,200 – 1,587,300 lbs. (480,000 – 720,000kg)
Dollars saved through reduced fuel and delays: $630,000 – $950,000
CO2 saved = 3,343,000 -5,015,000 lbs. (1,500,000-2,250,000kg)
GE, Airways and the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority worked closely with the participating airlines to optimize the RNP arrival and departure flight paths, ensuring maximum operational efficiency. The new RNP paths, which were implemented in November, have cut the average flight delay from more than six minutes to less than one minute per flight.
The new RNP flight paths were integrated with other non-jet flight paths to streamline traffic, and all airlines are benefiting. Flight delays have been reduced from approximately 2,400 minutes a month to around 200 minutes a month.
“Performance-based Navigation, and in particular the RNP AR design criteria that allows curved approach and departure paths to reduce carbon emissions, avoid terrain and noise sensitive areas, are aligned perfectly with Air New Zealand’s intent to have the highest possible environmental credentials in the world,” said Captain Phil Kirk, PBN programme manager for Air New Zealand.
“GE Aviation came through with procedures that deliver benefits on all counts. We appreciate that our crew and passengers no longer have gate holding and spend very little time in holding patterns.”
The initial GE-designed RNP flight paths implemented at Queenstown in 2004 served as mechanism for one aircraft to maneuver through the mountainous terrain on a reliable, repeatable flight path. As Airways undertook a larger airspace redesign, GE was able to redesign the paths, since they are unrestrained by ground-based navigation aids, to accommodate the capacity requirements for current and future air traffic growth.