WASHINGTON, DC — The Department of Transportation's Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today announced that a new navigation procedure at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport will increase efficiency, improve safety, and reduce the effect of aircraft noise and emissions on homes and businesses under the flight path. Called "Required Navigation Performance" (RNP), the procedure takes advantage of a plane's onboard navigation capability to fly a more precise flight path into the airport. The Reagan National RNP approach to Runway 19, which follows the Potomac River, allows planes to land with considerably lower cloud ceilings and visibility than currently required, increasing airport access during marginal weather.
"We're tapping the high-performance computing capability of today's aircraft to move more planes more safely and efficiently," said FAA Administrator Marion C. Blakey. "The environmental benefits are terrific too, because flying straight down the middle of the flight path means that people on the ground perceive less jet noise and experience fewer engine emissions."
The procedure at Reagan National may be used by any operator who can meet specific FAA requirements for aircraft navigation performance and pilot training. Alaska Airlines is the first air carrier authorized by the FAA to use the RNP procedures at Reagan National. The airline pioneered the use of RNP procedures at Juneau and other airports in Alaska.
Besides the new procedure at Reagan National, the FAA has authorized RNP procedures at Juneau, San Francisco, Portland, OR; Palm Springs, CA; and Hailey (Sun Valley), ID.
At all the airports, RNP's "repeatability" — allowing aircraft to fly the same path consistently — lets the FAA design procedures to avoid noise- sensitive areas with the assurance that aircraft will fly the exact path every time.
The FAA and the aviation community have collaborated for more than a year to make performance-based navigation a reality. When performance-based navigation is fully implemented at airports across the nation, it will establish precise approach, arrival and departure procedures. It also will improve situational awareness for pilots and air traffic controllers, and provide smoother traffic flows, saving fuel and benefiting the environment.