Transport ministry moves ahead plan for straight flight paths
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
The government will accelerate its plan to use global positioning and other high-tech systems for all major domestic air routes to shorten flight times, reduce fuel consumption and enhance air safety.
The target for full implementation of area navigation (RNAV) flight methods on the 75 main domestic routes is the end of March 2012, one year earlier than initially planned.
RNAV involves the use of satellites and other technology to guide aircraft. Current flight-positioning methods rely on ground-based radio navigation stations, forcing aircraft to travel in a zigzag manner to fly near or above those facilities.
Pilots using RNAV can assess their bearings without ground support and follow a near-straight path to their destinations.
Officials of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism say RNAV will enable domestic carriers to cut fuel use by about 63 million liters a year, amounting to savings of about 5.4 billion yen ($55.6 million).
Flight distances can be cut by an average of about 2 percent, or a reduction of around two minutes for a two-hour flight, the officials said.
However, it has yet to be seen how the new system will affect air fares, they said.
There are other enormous benefits to using RNAV, according to the ministry.
The shorter flights will enable airlines to cut carbon dioxide emissions by about 155,000 tons a year, equivalent to the emissions from about 29,000 households.
And switching to RNAV from the 98 ground navigation aid stations currently in use will reduce air traffic congestion along busy routes.
For example, under normal weather conditions, a flight from Haneda Airport in Tokyo to Kushiro Airport in Hokkaido must fly over ground facilities in Sendai and Miyako, Iwate Prefecture, and then veer eastward near a facility off the Sanriku coast of northern Honshu before returning to a northwest course for Kushiro.
Other aircraft must also fly over these facilities, leading to air-traffic congestion.
RNAV is already partially in use around eight airports, including Haneda Airport, Osaka Airport and Fukuoka Airport.(IHT/Asahi: November 14,2008)