It may have a somewhat clumsy name: required navigation performance (RNP), but this new highly-accurate navigation system is reducing flight times, saving fuel, reducing noise pollution and increasing capacity at airports throughout South America.
RNP technology allows aircraft to fly precisely-defined flight paths without relying on ground-based radio-navigation signals and is the centrepiece of the Green Skies of Peru project, a collaborative effort between LAN Airlines, GE Aviation, Peru's air navigation service provider CORPAC and Peru’s safety regulator DGAC.
By linking the precise on-board navigation system of today’s modern aircraft with GPS satellite signals, the RNP system allows the aircraft to automatically fly very precise routes irrespective of weather conditions. The first continuously-guided flight from take-off to landing using this technology was made by LAN in February 2012. This saved, on average, 19 track miles, 6.3 minutes, 200 kilograms of fuel and 644 kilograms of CO2 emissions per flight. Since the RNP paths have been in use at Cusco, an airport located high in the Andes Mountains and a busy gateway to Machu Picchu, LAN has reduced cancellations from 12 to 5 and flight delays by 45%. During the first year of RNP use at Cusco, more than 30,000 of LAN Peru´s passengers avoided flight cancellations or delays, thanks to the technology.
Using the technology, LAN can now automatically fly highly-precise approach paths, which avoid heavily built-up areas near airports or bad-weather approaches into airports surrounded by mountains, which can distort the signals from traditional ground-based radio navigational aids.