GPS would help at Terrace airport

Airport's reliability factor could reach 99 per cent as a result

  • Jul. 10, 2012 1:00 p.m.

THE LOCAL airport’s existing 97 per cent landing and takeoff reliability factor could be improved even more if a GPS landing system was installed, says the general manager of the facility.

A GPS system, which would use satellite coordinates instead of on-the-ground equipment if that equipment should not be working, could improve the reliability factor into the 99 per cent range, said Carman Hendry of the Northwest Regional Airport.

The challenge is that during bad weather when the instrument landing system is needed the most, it might stop working, he said.

From April 2011 to March 2012, out of approximately 4,700 passenger aircraft landings and takeoffs, 14 flights were affected during extreme weather when the instrument landing system wasn’t working.

“It will improve the reliability of the airport,” said Hendry of a GPS system. “It provides a backup plan.”

This is even more important now that passenger traffic here is setting records and expecting to grow due to an improving regional economy, he added.

Hendry explained that with the current ground-based landing system, which is made up of three tools to help planes land as well as two beacons that direct planes to and from the airport, planes will not leave other airports to arrive here if any element of the system is not working.

Planes can’t take off from the airport either if any part of the system isn’t functioning.

The three parts of the current system, called an instrument landing system (ILS), include a device that lines planes up with the centre of the runway, one which specifies the slope on which a plane has to descend, and another that tells an aircraft how far it is from the ground.

Then, two homing beacons direct planes to and from the airport on a safe path to fly.

“The planes will fly towards them to ensure they’re flying in the right direction,” said Hendry.

Aircraft rely on this system in conditions with reduced visibility, to avoid obstacles like mountains and to land in the right spot on the runway.

With a GPS landing system, these types of tools will be programmed into a satellite system which can be read inside many aircraft, said Hendry.

It will also enable planes to land on the south end of the runway at the airport in lower visibility conditions, which currently can only be done on clear days.

NavCanada, the agency that provides airport navigation services, said a GPS system for the Northwest Regional Airport is available, and now a land survey is needed.

“All we need to do is supply a survey and they will begin developing it,” said Hendry.

A land survey will plot different obstacles and paths into points to be used in the GPS system.

The cost of the entire project is yet to be determined.