Aand a Shandong Airlines -800 flew a series of instrument approaches to the Shanghai Pudong International airport on April 29 using a -built ground-based augmentation system (GBAS) and instrument-approach procedures developed by Hughes Aerospace, marking the first public demonstrations of the technology in China.
The Honeywell SmartPath GBAS landing system (GLS)—which augments GPS signals to boost accuracy to required levels—is the first certified system to be installed in China. One GLS, which can output guidance for up to 26 approaches to any runway, replaces traditional instrument-approach architectures that require horizontal and vertical guidance systems to be placed at each runway end. The single system covers approaches for all four runways at Pudong and saves on a variety of regular inspection and maintenance costs.
SmartPath, to date the only-certified system on the market, is installed at several airports around the world, including Newark, Houston, Sydney and Frankfurt. The GLS is currently approved for Category 1 (Cat 1) instrument approach minimums (aircraft must be in visual conditions at 200 ft. above the runway to continue the approach), but the FAA and others are working toward Cat 2 (100-ft. minimums) and Cat 3 capability (50-ft. minimums or less, including autoland) in the next several years. The FAA says Cat 3 operations could be available in the U.S. in 2018.
Other “firsts” on April 29 include the demonstration of curved approaches that connect to the GLS, and approaches with lower- or higher-than-standard glideslopes, including a 2.8-deg. flight path angle (FPA), a 3.2-deg. FPA and the standard 3.0-deg FPA. The 3.2-deg. FPA approach also included a displaced threshold of 1,072 ft., an offset that could help avoid the potential for wake turbulence during parallel runway operations, Hughes Aerospace CEO Chris Baur said.
Hughes, which is partnered with Honeywell on the project, is one of three FAA-certified third-party providers of NextGen procedures. Baur said the company built eight approaches into Pudong. The two commercial aircraft each flew 4-5 non-revenue approaches in instrument weather that day, he said.
Next steps for Pudong include certification at the airport by the China’s Civil Aviation Administration () and Air Traffic Management Bureau, a process that may allow for quicker installations at other airports in the country.