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Alaska Airlines Pioneers RNP RNAV Operation

In 1996, Alaska Airlines pioneered RNP RNAV approach and departure operations using 737-300 airplanes that were RNP-certified in 1994. Operations into the Juneau International Airport runway 08 frequently had been interrupted or delayed because of low visibility and ceilings. When the wind shifted, making operations on runway 08 difficult or impossible, the opposite runway, runway 26, was unusable because it lacked an approach landing aid and associated procedures.

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At that time, no precedent had been set for using the RNP technology to achieve specific benefits. Determined to improve reliability and safety at Juneau, Alaska Airlines, with the assistance of Boeing navigation system and performance experts, used its knowledge of the RNP technology, airplane performance, and flight operations to design and gain operational approval of an RNP 0.15 RNAV approach to runway 08. The minimums were reduced from a 1,000-ft ceiling and 2 mi of required visibility to a 724-ft ceiling and 1 mi of visibility. A new RNP departure procedure also was developed that reduced the flight crew’s workload and required a lower climb gradient, which allowed for increased payload.

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Next, the team developed an RNP RNAV approach to runway 26, providing the first instrument approach available to that runway. Because the approach literally wound its way down a mountain valley, the flexibility of a system based on Earth-referenced waypoints and linear containment surfaces proved ideal for designing the new procedure. It required RNP 0.3 and has landing minimums of 337 ft with 1 mi of required visibility.

Subsequent RNP RNAV procedures have been developed and approved for Sitka, Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg, Cordova, and Kodiak.

NOTE: THESE PROCEDURES ARE CURRENTLY AVAILABLE ONLY TO ALASKA AIRLINES.

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JEFF AIMAR
ASSOCIATE TECHNICAL FELLOW
AIR TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT SERVICES
BOEING COMMERCIAL AIRPLANES GROUP


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