Northern Air Cargo to Use WAAS to Fly More Efficient Routes and Gain Greater Airport Access

Northern Air Cargo to Use WAAS to Fly More Efficient Routes and Gain Greater Airport Access

Northern Air Cargo to Use WAAS to Fly More Efficient Routes and Gain Greater Airport Access
Northern Air Cargo, an air freight carrier based in Anchorage, Alaska, has been certified to begin flying with the Federal Aviation Administration’s Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS).  Using the extremely accurate navigation service provided by WAAS, Northern Air Cargo can now take advantage of WAAS localizer performance with vertical (LPV) approach procedures, utilize low and high altitude routes throughout Alaska that require WAAS equipage, and take advantage of other WAAS-enabled benefits.

Northern Air Cargo is the first Boeing 737-200 in the U.S. to apply for and acquire supplemental type certification to fly with full WAAS capability.  Northern Air Cargo worked closely with ARC Avionics of Miami, Florida to upgrade their Universal Avionics UNS-1F to the WAAS UNS 1-Fw that led to the approval of the Supplemental Type Certificate (STC).

This installation of WAAS on a Northern Air Cargo B 737-200 is a much anticipated milestone for Northern Air Cargo, but it is also a major benefit to other B 737-200\300 operators interested in WAAS.  With the completion and approval of this installation by Northern Air Cargo, the same process for other operators will now be much abbreviated.  As a result of this initiative being taken by Northern Air Cargo, the potential for this becoming a catalyst for WAAS installation in hundreds of similar Boeing 737 airframes is a distinct possibility.

Benefits of WAAS Equipage

Northern Air Cargo will now be able to take advantage of the benefits of WAAS Localizer Performance with Vertical (LPV) approach procedures.  WAAS LPVs improve access to airports by supporting approach minimums as low as 200 feet without the need for any navigation equipment at the airport – a capability especially beneficial at runway ends without an Instrument Landing System (ILS).   In Alaska, there are currently 38 WAAS LPVs to 22 different locations.  Many of these locations are very remote with no ILS, and some with gravel runways.  With WAAS, Northern Air Cargo will have better access to these airports, gaining the ability to land in conditions that were before prohibitive.  Nationwide, there are over 1,500 WAAS LPVs already in place and the FAA has committed to publish WAAS approach procedures to all qualifying runway ends, estimated to be about 6,000, by 2018.

Alaska LPV Map
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Additionally, Northern Air Cargo will now be able to fly “T” and “Q” routes.  In Alaska, WAAS is required to fly T routes (enroute FL180 and below) and GNSS is required to fly Q routes (above FL180).  T and Q routes are beneficial because they provide more direct routing as opposed to the less direct victor and jet routes which are predicated on the ground-based locations of Very High Frequency Omni directional Ranging (VOR) navigation systems.  T routes are beneficial because they will permit aircraft to fly lower minimum enroute altitudes (MEAs) than victor routes, increasing safety through aircraft’s ability to fly below icing levels.

This NAC upgrade to WAAS-capability will also mitigate the requirement for departure, terminal, and enroute Receiver Autonomous Integrity Monitoring (RAIM) checks that will go into effect this summer in accordance with requirements in AC 90-100A.  These RAIM checks will not be required for WAAS-equipped aircraft as long as the WAAS signal is available to the aircraft since the WAAS signal includes built-in integrity.

Next Steps

Northern Air Cargo
Now that the first installation is in place for a commercial transport category operator, Northern Air Cargo will work closely with the FAA to begin flight evaluation of proposed data collection routes.  These activities will support the collection and reporting of the operational benefits that can be derived from WAAS-equipped air carrier aircraft operating in the NAS environment.  This data will assist the FAA in the technical evaluation of WAAS utilization (especially in Alaska) to include the assessment of environmental benefits, economic savings, and cost avoidance related to such flight operations as would be normally flown by an air carrier. This economic information will be shared with the Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO) and NextGen organizations as part of the evaluation of these NextGen capabilities.  This data will be collected as part of Northern Air Cargo’s normal revenue flight operations to airports within their system.  Northern Air Cargo has already started collecting operational data prior to WAAS equipage to help to establish a baseline for comparison purposes.  In addition to operational benefits accrued by the air carrier, other benefits are expected to be validated, such as environmental benefits resulting from more direct routes and less fuel-burn.  While benefit analyses have been projected, the FAA WAAS program seeks to measure actual benefits and evaluate operational issues in order to support more effective use of WAAS in meeting FAA and NextGen goals and objectives.

More on Northern Air Cargo

Northern Air Cargo

Northern Air Cargo has been providing service to Alaska for over 50 years.  They connect Anchorage with destinations throughout Alaska and beyond with scheduled, charter, and flag stop service - carrying up to 30,000 pounds per trip.

>> For more information on Northern Air Cargo, please click here.

More on WAAS

Wide Area Augmentation System

The Wide Area Augmentation System was originally commissioned in July 2003 and provides service to the continental United States, Alaska, Canada and Mexico.  WAAS can provide vertical guidance down to as low as 200 feet height above touchdown (HAT).


>> For more information on WAAS, please click here.