Changi charting path to speedier landings

The optimal use of runways and airspace is critical with airline passenger traffic in the Asia-Pacific expected to grow by more than 6 per cent annually over the next two decades. -- ST FILE PHOTO
The optimal use of runways and airspace is critical with airline passenger traffic in the Asia-Pacific expected to grow by more than 6 per cent annually over the next two decades. -- ST FILE PHOTO

CAAS studying satellite-based system to help planes land faster

TRAVELLERS could experience quicker landings in future even as Changi Airport handles a growing number of flights.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) is studying the feasibility of using satellite-based technology to guide aircraft to land, The Straits Times has learnt.

Unlike the current system, which uses radio signals, the new technology is more precise.

Planes can be pinpointed more accurately, so air traffic controllers can bring aircraft closer together without compromising safety standards.

The use of satellite-based systems also allows more flexibility in charting more efficient and shorter landing approaches.

The optimal use of runways and airspace is critical given that more flights are expected to criss-cross Asian skies in the coming years.

Airline passenger traffic in the Asia-Pacific is expected to grow by more than 6 per cent annually over the next two decades, outpacing the 5 per cent global increase.

A spokesman for CAAS said the use of satellite-based systems to guide aircraft is recognised globally as a "next-generation" system "to assist pilots to navigate and land their aircraft with greater precision, including in low-visibility conditions and inclement weather".

United States firm Honeywell, which has installed its SmartPath satellite system in airports, including Newark and Houston, has been talking to CAAS.

Honeywell Aerospace's Asia-Pacific vice-president (airlines), Mr Brian Davis, said: "With the current system used at Changi and many other airports, you typically need a 10 to 12 nautical mile straight-landing approach. But with satellite technology, pilots can execute shorter, curved approaches, for example.

"This cuts flying time, so it's faster landings for travellers, as well as (uses) less fuel and carbon emissions."

Studies have shown that SmartPath can increase the number of flights a runway can handle by up to 10 per cent, he added.

Changi Airport, which handled 343,800 landings and take-offs last year, has introduced various initiatives to boost runway efficiency in recent years.

These include cutting the minimum interval between aircraft take-offs, where possible. During peak hours, for instance, a plane now takes off every minute instead of two minutes previously.

Singapore Airlines and other carriers operating at Changi are supporting the move by encouraging their pilots to quickly move their planes from the runway to the aircraft gate after landing.

karam@sph.com.sg


IMPROVEMENTS

The new technology allows planes to be pinpointed more accurately so air traffic controllers can bring aircraft closer together without compromising safety standards.

The use of satellite-based systems also allows more flexibility in charting more efficient and shorter landing approaches.

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