Memphis first to certify SmartPath

MEMPHIS, Tenn., 17 Nov. 2009. Since Honeywell's SmartPath received Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) design approval in September, movement to field the certified technology has escalated and efforts to take the precision landing system to the next operational level have begun.

By David Jensen

MEMPHIS, Tenn., 17 Nov. 2009. Since Honeywell's SmartPath received Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) design approval in September, movement to field the certified technology has escalated and efforts to take the precision landing system to the next operational level have begun.

According to Honeywell officials, Memphis International Airport will be the first site of an FAA-approved SmartPath ground-base augmentation system (GBAS). It is scheduled to be operational by about mid 2010. Memphis currently is one of 10 airports worldwide participating in a SmartPath demonstration program. The Memphis system will be switched from a demonstration model to a certified model approved for Category I landings.

Airservices Australia also is having its SmartPath system certified at Sydney Airport. Since 2006, the agency and Honeywell have worked jointly in developing and evaluating SmartPath. Qantas Airways has logged more than 2,500 approaches using GBAS at Sydney.

Nick Welch, program manager at Airservices Australia, says, "System reliability has been around 98 percent. The new [certified] system is expected to perform with even greater reliability." He says he expects Civil Aviation Safety Authority of Australia (CASA) certification of SmartPath by mid 2010.

Airservices Australia initially planned to also install GBAS at Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, and Perth. However, Welch says there could be more installations. "The final decision on expansion of the network will be made once the Sydney system is fully operational and cost/benefits of the system are further validated," he adds. "It is our intention to expand the network across all major domestic airports."

Welch says that the cost/benefit analysis "would also focus on complementary procedures like RNP [required navigation performance] coupled with GBAS." Airservices Australia has been working with Qantas and Naverus Inc. on an RNP demonstration program at Brisbane International Airport since 2006.

So far, Qantas is the only carrier to use SmartPath at Sydney, but Welch claims Virgin, Cathay Pacific, Emirates Air and Jetstar, a Qantas subsidiary, "have shown interest in GBAS use."

SmartPath programs have been conducted in the United States, in Minneapolis, Seattle-Tacoma, Atlantic City (FAA Technical Center), Chicago O'Hare, and Moses Lake, Wash., (a facility Boeing uses for development and operational evaluation) airports, as well as in Memphis. The second FAA approved system will be installed at Newark (N.J.) Liberty International Airport.

In addition, airports serving Bremen, Germany; Malaga, Spain, and Guam have been demonstrating SmartPath systems. Continental Airlines was instrumental in having GBAS placed in Guam and initially will be the principal carrier using the system in Newark. Like Sydney and Memphis, Bremen and Malaga also plan to have their SmartPath systems certified.

Meanwhile, Honeywell is working with the FAA to advance SmartPath to Cat III level capability. "We first have to come up with the framework for certification," says T.K. Kallenbach, Honeywell's vice president of marketing and product management. "That will probably take place over the next six to nine months."

GBAS is a ground-based system that augments GPS signals to enhance satellite navigation's reliability and accuracy. One of its main benefits over ILS is that GBAS equipment need not be installed at the end of each runway. One GBAS installation allows precision landing on all of an airport's runways. The first GBAS to be FAA approved, SmartPath has been identified as an enabling technology for the agency's NextGen and Eurocontrol's Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) programs.

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