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Debut of New GE Flight Path Marks New Era in U.S. Airspace Modernization

August 26, 2010

American Airlines Completes Inaugural Flight at Connecticut’s Bradley International Airport
"Highways in the Sky" Reduce Delays, Slash Aircraft CO2 Emissions and Improve Airline Efficiency

WINDSOR LOCKS, CT (August 26, 2010) – As American Airlines Flight 1916 touched down at Bradley International Airport this afternoon, it became the first-ever United States flight to use a publicly available, commercially designed instrument flight path.  The event heralds an acceleration of airspace modernization efforts that use precise “highways in the sky” to reduce delays, slash aircraft CO2 emissions and improve airline operating efficiency. 

Naverus, a part of GE Aviation, designed the path, which incorporates Required Navigation Performance technology (RNP), a core component of the FAA’s NextGen airspace modernization plan.  RNP paths can be custom-tailored to reduce airport congestion, shorten trip distance, reduce an aircraft’s time in flight, and create community-friendly flight trajectories that lessen the effect of aircraft noise.

“Today’s event marks a significant milestone for the flying public by augmenting the means to develop and deploy airspace improvements in the U.S. that will translate to fewer delays, less air pollution and greater system reliability,” said Naverus General Manager Steve Forte.  “Modernizing the U.S. air traffic management system is a monumental task that requires the best efforts of government and private sectors alike.  Today we showed how third-party navigation providers, like GE, and airlines, like American, are helping accelerate these improvements.”

The new landing procedure, which became a permanent fixture at Bradley Airport today, allows pilots to use onboard technology to follow a precise track, independent of aging ground-based navigation beacons that limit where the aircraft can go.  As a result, the Bradley procedure will enable airliners to land on Runway 15 during periods of low clouds and visibility that previously would have stopped them from landing there.

“Over the next 20 years, airspace and airlines around the world will fundamentally change from how we operate today,” said Captain Brian Will, American Airlines’ Director – Airspace Modernization and Advanced Technologies. “This new procedure is a critical step to help implement NextGen modernization. American Airlines, which has long been a pioneer with RNP and RNAV, is very excited to work with GE and usher in a new era for U.S. aviation.”

“The State of Connecticut, Department of Transportation and Bradley International Airport are proud to be part of this cutting-edge technology at New England’s second largest airport,” said Eric N. Waldron, A.A.E., ACE, Bradley’s Administrator.  “Thank you to GE Aviation, American Airlines and our partners at the Federal Aviation Administration for bringing this additional safety feature to Bradley which benefits everyone, most especially our customers.”

The inaugural flight using the newly-approved approach to Bradley International Airport’s Runway 15 was American Airlines Flight 1916, which arrived from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport at 12:11 p.m. today.  Captain Will was at the controls of the Boeing 737 NG, which carried as a passenger GE Aviation Systems Technical Fellow for Air Traffic Management, Steve Fulton, a long-time champion of RNP who developed the world’s first RNP flight paths in the mid 1990s.

GE is a leader in RNP, deploying effective RNP procedures around the world and is the first third-party procedure designer to publish a public RNP procedure in the U.S.  In Canada, China, Australia, New Zealand, Peru and now, the United States, GE’s RNP procedures are in regular daily use. 

“RNP flight paths are an important part of a larger GE effort that is pioneering new ways to optimize aircraft operations from gate to gate,” said Fulton.  “Other components of this effort include advanced features of GE flight computers, like the one aboard the American Airlines flight today, which allow pilots to fly RNP paths and enable them to select pre-designated arrival times at runways and even at exact points along the route.”

Additionally, GE is working with the FAA and other regulatory bodies and navigation service providers around the world to develop the capability for aircraft to share optimized flight trajectories with air traffic control in real time, and to ‘negotiate’ modifications to those trajectories when necessary.  This ultimately will allow airlines to plan each and every flight to operate on the most efficient flight path with the least possible environmental impact.

Navigational and operational capabilities such as these will make air traffic management more efficient by helping airlines plan more direct routes, decreasing airspace congestion, saving fuel and reducing commercial aviation’s greenhouse gas emissions—which have increased 80 percent over the past 20 years.  Without new RNP flight paths and other essential upgrades, FAA estimates that by 2015 the current air traffic control system will be unable to handle the 50 percent increase in airplanes and passengers expected over the next decade.[i]

Bradley International Airport, the largest commercial airport in Connecticut and second largest in New England, is the first among hundreds nationwide that stand to benefit from the precision and reliability of GE-designed RNP approaches. 

RNP procedures can provide different benefits, depending on their design.  GE specifically designed the Bradley Airport RNP approach to provide pilots with continuous vertical guidance to Runway 15 while allowing them to land when the cloud ceiling is as low as 350 feet above the ground.  Prior to the new RNP approach, the existing instrument approach procedure for the runway provided no continuous vertical flight guidance and was of no benefit to airlines when cloud ceilings were lower than 1,000 feet above the ground.  It’s anticipated that the new RNP approach will improve the utility of Bradley’s Runway 15 and provide pilots and controllers with additional navigation flexibility during periods of adverse weather or winds.   

To see an animation of the RNP airport approach at Bradley Airport, please visit:  www.ge.com/rnp-bradley-approach; to see animation of other optimized RNP approaches, please visit: www.ge.com/optimized-rnp-approach

About American Airlines

American Airlines, American Eagle and AmericanConnection® serve 250 cities in 40 countries with, on average, more than 3,400 daily flights. The combined network fleet numbers more than 900 aircraft. American’s award-winning website, AA.com®, provides users with easy access to check and book fares, plus personalized news, information and travel offers. American Airlines is a founding member of the oneworld® Alliance, which brings together some of the best and biggest names in the airline business, enabling them to offer their customers more services and benefits than any airline can provide on its own. Together, its members serve nearly 700 destinations in more than 130 countries and territories. American Airlines, Inc. and American Eagle Airlines, Inc. are subsidiaries of AMR Corporation. AmericanAirlines, American Eagle, AmericanConnection, AA.com, We know why you fly and AAdvantage are registered trademarks of American Airlines, Inc. (NYSE: AMR)

About Bradley International Airport

Bradley International Airport is the second largest in New England and serves an extensive geographic area, as its customer base covers the entire Northeast including Western Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey.  According to the most recent economic impact analysis, Bradley contributes $4 billion in economic activity to the state of Connecticut and the surrounding region, representing $1.2 billion in wages and 18,000 full-time jobs.

About GE Aviation Systems

Naverus Inc., part of GE Aviation, is a global leader in the development and implementation of Performance-based Navigation, including RNP, and is working with aircraft operators and air traffic management providers in China, South and Central America, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Europe to implement PBN solutions. Learn more about Naverus at: www.naverus.com.

GE Aviation, an operating unit of GE (NYSE: GE), is a world-leading provider of jet engines, components and integrated systems for commercial and military aircraft. GE Aviation has a global service network to support these offerings. www.ge.com/aviation



[i] Federal Aviation Administration (October 10, 2007). “Next Generation Air Transportation System 2006 Progress Report”. Press release.  Archive copy at FAA.gov.

Contact Information

Jennifer Villarreal
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Jennifer Villarreal
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Division
GE Aviation
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+1 616 241 8643
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+1 616 617 7755
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jennifer.villarreal3@ge.com
Ken Shapero
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Ken Shapero
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253-867-3955
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