Thomas Cook is the first UK airline to gain CAA approval to use cutting edge GPS-based RNAV (Required Navigation) technology in landing approaches.
RNAV likely to be used by all civil aircraft in the future utilises onboard computers and software linked to Flight Guidance systems to produce remarkable new benefits on approach.
A three-dimensional approach is generated which mimics a conventional instrument landing, normally associated with a major airfield. The system supplies the flight deck with accurate glide slope indications, even at destinations which do not have precision approach aids.
Thomas Cook Airlines two latest-generation Airbus A 330s already have RNAV hardware and software fitted and the airline has spent the past 18 months making the exhaustive preparations to be able to put it to use.
Twelve training captains have been involved in simulator training and the airline has put in place all the quality control and engineering back-up to satisfy the CAA.
The airline is now working in close conjunction with the Authority to pilot the system, largely on its Canadian and Caribbean flights.
Andy Thorington, Thomas Cooks Airbus Fleet Manager, says RNAV technology will bring significant benefits to the industry:
Flight safety will be improved as aircraft are able to follow a defined glide slope which has not been possible before. Historically, the vast majority of CFIT* accidents have been associated with non-precision approaches which RNAV will gradually replace.
Flights can still operate when ground navigational aids are unserviceable or unavailable a big benefit when you consider many holiday destinations in third world or less developed areas do not have such well equipped airfields as most of Europe.
The reliability and accuracy of such GPS-based equipment means that aircraft will be able to conduct approaches to lower altitudes increasing the likelihood of successful landing approaches in poor weather. It may well lead to the ability to carry out low visibility approaches and auto lands.
Curved approaches and approaches down valleys can also take place with RNAV, easing the previous challenges of difficult terrain or locations.
Some airlines in Canada and the Far East are already successfully using RNAV. Thomas Cook plans to have all 70 of its A330 pilots trained to use the system by the end of the year.
The airline is also working on the introduction of the system on its 19 Boeing 757s and further into the future, on its Airbus A 320s.