Brighter Days Ahead for Laguindingan Airport

Mar 19, 2014

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Blurb: “GPS-based PBN could be ready in two months”

Flight cancellations at the Laguindingan Airport could soon be a thing of the past. Or at the very least, minimized to an acceptable level.

A common sight at Laguindingan Airport's passenger terminal and check-in counters. (Photo by Celeste Camaddo Lagrito)

Derisively dubbed “Dimalangdingan Airport” by irate air commuters when flight cancellations reached unprecedented levels last January, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) is working closely with the Project Management Office (PMO) of the Laguindingan Airport Development Project (LADP) and Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) to fast tracking a more advanced navigational system which hopefully would enable pilots of domestic airliners now serving the airport to land and take off even in inclement weather.

“We are now testing a new Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite based system which if successful, could be implemented in two months,” said Engr. Jose P. Bodiongan, CAAP Area IX Manager during the general assembly of the Cagayan de Oro City Tourism Council (CTC) held Tuesday, 11 March 2014 at the Executive House, City Hall Complex.

Satellite based Communications, Navigation and Surveillance Air Traffic Management System (CNSATM) -Approach Landing Operations

Dubbed the Performance Based Navigation (PBN) system, Mr. Bodiongan said the present fleet of Airbus A320s now serving the airport is already equipped to operate within the system which would facilitate a smooth transition to an upgrade from its present status as an exclusively Visual Flight Rules (VFR) airport.  Required Navigation Performance (RNP) approaches and associated procedures can be performed by any Airbus aircraft equipped with GPS and the second-generation flight management system (FMS2).

RNP represents the latest in navigation techniques, allowing aircraft to fly precisely along a predefined route using state-of-the-art onboard navigation systems and the GPS – resulting in improved efficiency, capacity and environmental performance for the global air transportation system.

Additional benefits of RNP include improved precision of flight operations and increased access to airports – particularly in low visibility conditions; while requiring fewer ground-based instrument landing aids, decreasing flight time and fuel consumption, and reducing noise and emissions.

Satellite-based Communications, Navigation and Surveillance Air Traffic Management System (CNS-ATM) En-Route Operation

“Pilots need to have a vertical ceiling of 5,000 meters and visibility of 1,500 meters to be allowed to land in Laguindingan under the present Visual Flight Rules,” said Mr. Bodiongan. “When we had to the unusual climate conditions last January, we had no choice but to disallow many flights from landing when these conditions necessary for VFR landings were not met.”

Flight statistics at the Laguindingan Airport complied by the CAAP show that for the 10-day period covering January 10-22, 2014 some 304 commercial flights or 56 percent of 546 scheduled flights were cancelled due to limited visibility brought by inclement weather and the lack of landing lights and navigational aids.

Flight cancellations over the period averaged 12 flights a day or 57 percent of the 21 flights scheduled daily. The bulk of the cancellations occurred during the period Jan. 19-22 with 74 flights or 49% of the total 152 cancelled due to Tropical Storm Agaton and the Low Pressure Area (LPA) which immediately followed.

Queueing at Laguindingan Airport (Photo by Michael Ray Ungab)

However, the CAAP official said should tests now being conducted by CAAP prove satisfactory, the new PBN system which utilizes GPS satellites could be operational in two months time, vastly improving Laguindingan airport’s capability to receive aircraft safely even in adverse weather.

PBN is one of the requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), thus a study for the purpose was funded by APEC to assist developing APEC member economies in meeting with this requirement.

The PBN concept allows for the optimization of the instrument procedure through the aircraft navigation performance, without the need for ground-based navigation aids which would be commissioned by the last quarter of 2014 yet, Mr. Bodiongan said.

PBN allows an aircraft to fly precisely along a predefined route using a GPS. This concept is used en route, and can reduce aircraft separation, including the terminal area, and used to optimize arrival and departure procedures.

Laguindingan Airport Waiting Room

The CAAP, in consortium with the Direction Générale de l’Aviation Civile, (DGAC or French Civil Aviation Authority), and Airbus S.A.S. subsidiary Quovadis, an air navigation service (ANS) provider, is supporting the development of a full PBN network at 11 major airports in the Philippines. The program is also supported by the French Civil Aviation University (ENAC) and Philippine airline operators Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific Air, PAL Express and Zest Airways.

Besides Laguindingan, the major airport radars that will be upgraded with next-generation air-traffic management systems include NAIA, Puerto Princesa, Zamboanga, Butuan, Dumaguete, Legaspi, Iloilo, Clark, Bacolod, Tacloban, Kalibo, Laoag and Subic.

The current aviation navigation procedures in the country require aircraft to use ground-based navigation systems, such as the distance-measuring equipment, very high-frequency omnidirectional range and radar which lead airlines along zigzag routes in the sky to follow pre -determined routes defined by the ground based nav-aids.

The PBN does away with such tracks or radials, and instead allow airliners to follow “aeronautical highways” more accurately and directly to their destinations.

The program aims to build CAAP’s expertise in various domains for safe and efficient PBN implementation, which includes procedure design, obstacles data survey training and training for air traffic controllers and flight safety inspectors.  

Upon the project’s completion, the entire region will benefit from the advantages of increased air traffic management capacity, reduce emissions through shorter tracks and transform Philippine airspace into one of the world’s most advanced PBN-optimized areas.  

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