Frequently Asked Questions

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What is Performance Based Navigation?

Performance-Based Navigation (PBN) is a concept which enables a broad range of technologies and is moving aviation away from existing ground-based navigation toward a system that relies more on the performance and capabilities of equipment on board the aircraft (see What is Performance Based Navigation.) Other terms synonymous with, and sometimes interchanged with PBN, are RNP (Required Navigation Performance) and RNAV (Required Navigation).

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How is PBN different to what is used now?

PBN involves a major shift from conventional ground-based navigation aids and procedures to satellite-based and area navigation procedures. The new procedures are more accurate and allow for shorter, more direct routes, as well as more efficient take-offs and landings. Collectively, these procedures reduce fuel burn, airport and airspace congestion, aircraft emissions and noise impacts on communities.

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Are there any benefits for the community from PBN?

That has been the experience in other parts of the world, where, within reason, flight paths can be designed to reduce overflight of residential areas as much as practically possible, and the Christchurch flight paths have been designed with this in mind. The flight paths settled on after the trial will use the accuracy of satellite-based navigation to create shorter, curved approaches to the runway. That will result in fuel and carbon emission savings and fewer miles being flown by aircraft over residential areas. This technology also allows for a more gradual continuous descent, with the aircraft engines operating at reduced power settings on a continuous descent, meaning aircraft on a PBN approach generate less noise than those on other less efficient flight paths (see A Global Initiative.)

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Will PBN definitely be introduced at Christchurch?

The purpose of the trial is to determine how PBN will continue to be implemented at Christchurch Airport. The trial outcomes will help identify future flight paths. PBN approaches have already been developed and implemented for the cross-wind runway, which was a necessary safety initiative to enable aircraft to land on this runway safely at night. The proposed Christchurch Flight Paths Trial is a step toward Christchurch Airport providing full PBN capability, in accordance with guidance from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the New Zealand Government (see What is Performance Based Navigation?) This capability will ensure Christchurch can deliver world best practise approach procedures, which in turn help deliver a safer, more efficient and environmentally sustainable operation.

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Will every flight use the trial flight paths?

The PBN trial will only apply to scheduled passenger aircraft arrivals in all operating conditions to best simulate future use. The trial flight paths will be trialled by approximately a quarter of flights arriving into Christchurch. Airways’ figures reveal the most aircraft using PBN approaches into Christchurch in one day is likely to be 28. Essentially decisions around the use of flight paths are made on a number of factors on the day, including traffic volumes, safe separation of aircraft, the weather and operational requirements. Ultimately use of the flight paths will be determined by the overall number of flights into and out of Christchurch Airport, which is predictable based on airline flight schedules, so we are confident these numbers, while somewhat flexible, won’t increase significantly.

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How were the trial flight paths chosen?

The trial flight paths have been developed following research, noise monitoring and industry input, to maximise satellite-based technology, the capability of modern aircraft, and research into how best to manage safety, noise and emissions. The flight paths have been designed to avoid areas of current or known future residential developments.

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Will residents notice a difference?

While all flights will operate within the existing approved noise contours for the Christchurch Airport, we anticipate PBN will help reduce aircraft noise for more members of the community.

Some trial flight paths will follow existing routes, so it may be difficult to discern differences from the ground.

The main difference you may notice is that these flight paths will be flown more consistently as the aircraft are guided by instruments, rather than flown manually by pilots. Noise monitoring equipment will be used to obtain independent and accurate data to help quantify any differences in noise levels before and during the trial.

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How will you evaluate the trial?

The trial will include the collection of technical data (including noise monitoring) and community feedback, so the trial partners can evaluate the best balance of safety, airspace management and environmental benefits, such as noise reduction for communities, fuel and carbon emission savings.

The partners will undertake an interim review after six months, to include the evaluation of noise monitoring data and community feedback. The community will be informed of the review results.

After the trials, final decisions will be made by the trial partners.