Best equipped best served—new regs and flightdeck technology for NextGen
RNP SAAAR, operational credits for EFVS with HUDs bring real value for corporate aviation.
By Glenn Connor
Pres, Discover Technology Intl ATP, Cessna 425
(L) VOR approach with EFVS. Just left of center in the HUD are the runway lights and VASI lights seen by the EV sensor along with terrain. FAA’s regulations for instrument approaches provide for use of vision technology for corporate and air transport aircraft current from published minimums to 100 ft where visual transition is required. (R) View with unaided eye.
In days of old, the choice of new technology for the flightdeck of corporate aircraft was limited to a pilot’s new watch or new sunglasses. The really cool guys had both. The market appeal of this “essential” flightdeck equipment was widespread and easy to justify, mainly because pilots made both the equipage and financial decisions.
Today’s reality in buying is a bit less impulsive, and persuasion for new technology or upgrades is based on something more than because it’s “cool.” Some use an airline form of justification such as the return on investment (ROI)-style model, though most can justify the need based on completing the corporate mission.
Now within the sea of NextGen speak is a new form of justification equally compelling—FAA’s operational incentive in what is now called “Best equipped best served.” From an operational standpoint this is a more expedited arrival or ocean crossing.
As airports and airspace are redesigned in NextGen, RNAV/required navigation performance (RNP) special arrival routes will be offered to those with newer, more accurate navigation systems.
In low-visibility conditions, the push for aircraft-centric equivalent visual operations (EVO) is also well under way, providing better chances of getting in based on vision system technology. For Part 135 operators, enhanced vision will soon offer a very big advantage—the ability to begin an approach in 1000 ft RVR on a Cat I approach rather than hold.
Corporate aviation leads the way
Some elements in aviation have criticized the “Best equipped best served” incentives as the haves and have nots. Corporate aviation has a distinct view—performance, efficiency and mission completion using the most modern tools to accomplish the goal.
Because of the business enterprise challenges, corporate aviation—not the airlines or military—has become the de facto leader in both technology and innovations. FAA offerings for “Best equipped best served” are in a host of areas, including performance-based navigation (PBN), aircraft-centric operations, surveillance and all-weather operations.
And, frankly, they are there for the taking by bizjets first. Each of these major areas of operations garners incentives from FAA that translate to user gains in time, efficiency and lower weather minimums.
The combination of technologies such as RNAV/RNP special aircraft and aircrew authorization required (SAAAR) with enhanced flight vision systems (EFVS) has produced a truly autonomous aircraft-centric operation that allows business people access to all the world’s ports of call and places of business.
FAA Deputy Dir of Flight Standards Policy John McGraw checks out Rockwell Collins’ new Pro Line Fusion system. McGraw has been one of the agency’s leading proponents of new flight developments and has been steering FAA to support new technologies to meet NextGen’s aircraft-centric operations.
Behind many of these operations is a group inside FAA Headquarters known as the Flight Technologies & Procedures Division (AFS 400). Years ago this was a small group that worried over mostly airline type procedures such as Cat I and Cat II/III conventional operations.
In 2001 a serious transformation of this part of FAA began under the new Associate for Aviation Safety Nick Sabatini and a freshly minted division manager named John McGraw. McGraw’s mission was simple—get FAA to treat technology as a tool, not magic. This meant moving past ground-based concepts and tapping the potential of new flightdeck technology.
And the recent track record of RNP SAAAR, new operational credits for HUDs and EFVS regulations has become real value for corporate aviation. In support of decision making, AFS 400 has developed a number of labs and facilities that are being used to validate certain operations with simulators and models.
The Flight Operations Simulation Branch in Oklahoma City OK is equipped with a modern flight simulator laboratory including Airbus A330/340 and Boeing 737-800 full motion flight simulators with HUDs, EFVS simulation, datalink, RNP and other development tools.
New HUD technology includes the Honeywell/Kollsman LCD HUD with EFVS, shown here during flight. EFVS operations require a HUD, sensor and flight symbology.
The simulators are also coupled with 2 common ARTs/STAR radar monitors to simulate a complete virtual terminal operation.
Data collection from these simulators is analyzed by another group of engineers, statisticians and mathematicians, that form the basis for criteria used to develop instrument approach procedures (TERPs) and separation standards.
Tasking for this group includes PBN initiatives and pilot/controller interactions. They are also responsible for unmanned aircraft systems and special instrument approach procedures. I think Area 51 is in there somewhere, but no one is saying.
On the field side of the group, AFS 400 is adding positions throughout the country to support the transition of the new technology in all areas, including RNAV operations, EFVS, UAS, aircraft and avionics. This is great news in terms of keeping the local FSDOs up to speed on the technology and the newly approved procedures such as with EFVS.