Sunday, January 23, 2011

Now is Time to Invest in NextGen RNP

Welcome to Wired!

All operators of transport category aircraft face the same broad challenges, each with a number of solutions. Southwest Airlines is  one of the nation’s consistently successful and perpetually profitable airlines, so reverse-engineering how it responds to these challenges is prudent good business.

ny mapOn January 11, Southwest said  that it was flying efficient RNP (Required Navigation Performance)  procedures at 11 airports it serves, including Boise, Chicago Midway, LA, and Raleigh-Durham. That efficiency will help Southwest maintain its low fares.

In concert with RNAV, RNP is the cornerstone of the satellite-based Next Generation National Airspace System. Teammates, RNAV and RNP facilitate the design of efficient airspace and procedures that improve safety, access, capacity, predictability, and operational efficiency. Precisely defined terminal procedures improve access and flexibility, enhance reliability, and reduce delays, thereby reducing fuel requirements and emissions.  

By flying RNP procedures at 11 airports, Southwest projects its initial savings at $16 million a year. That will grow to an estimated $60 million when RNP covers all of its 70-plus destinations. An ongoing effort, so far the FAA has authorized more than 200 RNP procedures at 63 airports in 33 states and territories, and more than 340 RNAV procedures at 118 airports in 30 states and territories.
RNP MapSouthwest invested four years and $175 million to equip 345 Boeing 737-700s for RNP operations and trained its pilots and technicians to use and maintain the system.  Beyond the immediate return, integrating the system now provides flexibility  in “any new aircraft platform we might use in the future.”

Entering international service in 1996, RNP is not bleeding edge technology. Collaborating with technical and operational experts from several nations,  the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) published its globally  harmonized  Performance Based Navigation (PBN) manual in March 2007. 

Unlike Southwest, many airlines seem reluctant to invest in RNP upgrades. Perhaps they are waiting to see if their calls for federal aid will materialize. Given the current political discussion to cut the budget by $100 billion, this seems unlikely, especially when the really big-ticket items—Defense, Social Security, and Medicare—are exempt.

Over the past several years, many airlines have been building their cash reserves to soften the impact of another economic downturn. As NextGen marches inexorably toward toward full implementation, failure to invest a portion of that reserve could result in a self-inflicted financial wound. 

Most people  know it always costs more to meet the requirements of an unavoidable deadline at the last minute, whether buying an airline ticket or integrating—and learning to use and maintain—new technology in a fleet of airliners.

Without a doubt, some NextGen steps are suffering growing pains, as all new technology must, but RNP is not one of them. As ASIG reverse-engineers the logic of Southwest’s new RNP capabilities, the airline is  marching toward NextGen compliance in a measured, step-by-step process of its own making and timing.

Proven and providing an immediate—and growing—return, RNP  is the heart of an airplane’s NextGen system. To it Southwest will  efficiently and economically connect NextGen’s remaining steps as they mature and deliver reliable dividends. Call it a self-funded NextGen compliance plan with benefits, and ASIG can show how it will work for your operation.

Until next time, stay 5x5, mission ready, and Wired!

Monday, January 10, 2011

EWIS Maintenance Program Deadline for Parts 121 & 129 is March 10, 2011

Welcome to Wired!

When it comes to meeting deadlines, having too much time can be just as bad as not having enough. The FAA published the final rule about Enhanced Airworthiness Program for Airplane Systems/Fuel Tank Safety on November 8, 2007. It became effective on December 10, 2007. Everyone involved, from OEMs to operators of Part 121 and 129 transport category aircraft had 39 months to comply with the new requirements.

That 39 months is up on March 10, 2011.

If you remember our post last July, EWIS, EZAP & ICA: What’s It All Mean and last September’s Aging Aircraft Safety Rule Deadline, Fatigue-Critical Structures & ASIG, the Enhanced Airworthiness Program final rule gave life to the Electrical Wiring Interconnection System (EWIS), the requirements of which are elucidated in in Subpart H of Part 25.

The not-so-new rules behind the fast approaching deadline apply to turbine-powered transport-category aircraft with a type certificate issued after January 1, 1958 that carry 30 or more passengers or have a maximum payload of 7,500 pounds or more. In other words, just about everything flying today. There are 13 exceptions.

Because ASIG is involved with EWIS requirements on several levels, we felt a heads up about the approaching deadline was in order. The salient regulatory paragraph, which is identical in 14 CFR 121.1111 and 129.111, Electrical Wiring Interconnection Systems (EWIS) maintenance program, is:

(b) After March 10, 2011, no certificate holder may operate an airplane identified in paragraph (a) of this section unless the maintenance program for that airplane includes inspections and procedures for electrical wiring interconnection systems [emphasis added].

As spelled out in 14 CFR 26.11, an operator’s maintenance program must be built  on instructions for continued airworthiness (ICA) developed by holders of, and applicants for type certificates and supplemental  type certificates (STCs). These entities had two years to create ICA that met the requirements of Part 25 Appendix H and passed muster with the FAA Oversight Office.

The ICA deadline was December 10, 2009, or with the approval of certificate applications after that date.  And that brings us to another important paragraph in 14 CFR 121.1111 and 129.111:

(d) After March 10, 2011, before returning an airplane to service after any alterations for which EWIS ICA are developed, the certificate holder must include in the airplane’s maintenance program inspections and procedures for EWIS based on those ICA [emphasis added].

EWIS is an ASIG specialty because the company has long understood that like a hybrid circulatory/nervous system, it  delivers power to and/or controls virtually every system in today’s transport category aircraft. As a result, there are few alterations or system improvements that will not include EWIS maintenance inspections and procedures.

At ASIG, developing the applicable EWIS ICA and operator maintenance program requirements are an integral part of our process, not an afterthought that meets the minimum regulatory requirements.  That is why we offer not only this reminder of the approaching deadline, but our fullest support and stand ready to help you comply with it.

Until next time, stay 5x5, mission ready, and Wired!