Penticton airport lands GPS approach system

The push is still on to get more flights in and out of Penticton airport, especially a direct flight to Calgary and Nav Canada is planning to make the airport a little safer and easier to use.

Later this year, Nav Canada will be introducing a GPS approach system for Penticton. But unlike upgrading to an Instrument Landing System with a radio beacon, a GPS approach doesn’t require any new equipment at the airport itself.

“That is the beauty of it,” said David Allen, manager of the Penticton airport.

“Instead, pilots will be given a series of GPS co-ordinates to guide them.

“With your GPS, you can hit those coordinates and not hit anything,” said Allen, adding that this is a better method than the ILS as well as being less expensive, since there is no equipment on the ground.

“Whether anything on the ground is working or not, as long as the GPS in the cockpit is working, you should be able to make a safe approach.”

“There will be a GPS approach designed, which gives it a more precision approach,” said Ron  Singer, spokesperson for Nav Canada.

“There is certainly opportunities for improvement to the accessibility of the airport. In mountainous regions, it’s always a challenge.”

Right now, the flight path is based on visuals. When you don’t have visuals, say during the snowstorms, the airport may be inaccessible.

“You don’t need visuals with GPS, you are going on points. If you know where your obstacles are, that’s there on your GPS,” said Allen. “So you build your route so you fly around the mountain and if you follow those GPS points you will fly around the mountain.”

“It should bring the limits way down, because on a cloudy day like today, they have to high limits simply because they can’t see,” said Allen. “If they can’t see, they can’t come in, but if they have a GPS, the limits should go way down.”

Singer said Nav Canada isn’t sure yet how much the safe flight ceiling will be lowered, since the process of setting up the GPS approach is just beginning.

“We will be designing a GPS approach for the airport, for each end of the runway. That will have potential for opportunities to lower the minima so it would be more accessible in difficult weather conditions,” said Singer, adding that work is expected to begin on the design shortly, though it won’t be finished or published until later this year.

“There is nothing to install, it is all satellite based and equipment on board the cockpit,” said Singer.

“The challenge is the actual designing of the approach and the angles.

“That is the difficult part and has to be tested.”


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