Hughes Revolutionizes Helicopter Navigation with the Launch of Groundbreaking COPTER ZK Route Network

Post by Alyce Shingler on February 28, 2024

Hughes has implemented the first Helicopter Performance Based Navigation (PBN) Network in commercial service, comprised of ZK Routes, RNP APCH & Departures.

Hughes, working closely with the FAA and Garmin, have been able to create a safer, more efficient pathway for IFR helicopter operations with the implementation of the first COPTER PBN Network”

— Chris Baur, CEO Hughes AerospaceANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES, February 28, 2024 / — Hughes Revolutionizes Helicopter Navigation with the Launch of Groundbreaking COPTER ZK Route Network

Hughes Aerospace, a leading innovator in aviation navigation technology, is proud to announce the successful development and implementation of ZK routes, the first-of-its-kind low-level IFR airways designed specifically for helicopter operations. In collaboration with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Hughes has spearheaded the creation of these routes to enhance safety and efficiency for helicopter pilots by allowing operations closer to the ground, thus mitigating the risks associated with icing conditions as well as terrain and obstacles.

The ZK routes, part of a COPTER Performance Based Navigation (PBN) network, are a testament to Hughes’ commitment to advancing aviation technology. Through rigorous testing and evaluation conducted with the Hughes own R66 flight test helicopter, Hughes has worked meticulously with the FAA to establish the criteria for these innovative airways. This initiative also included the development of COPTER RNP-APCH LPV Instrument Approaches, and RNP 0.3 Departures, further showcasing Hughes’ dedication to enhancing navigational precision and safety in challenging day/night weather conditions.

Garmin®, a key collaborator, played a crucial role in developing the navigation databases necessary for both the testing and subsequent implementation of these advanced navigation procedures. Together, Hughes and Garmin introduced several technological enhancements, including operator ZK database route selectivity, which allows for greater flexibility and customization for helicopter operators.

Reach Air Medical Services, a leader in medical transportation, has become the first operator to successfully implement an entire IFR network of ZK routes, equipped with RNP-APCH approaches and RNP 0.3 RNAV Departures. This achievement marks a significant milestone in aviation, providing Reach Air Medical Services with unprecedented operational enhancements and reinforcing the importance of technological advancement in ensuring the safety and efficiency of air medical services.

Chris Baur, CEO of Hughes Aerospace & Industry Chairman of the US Helicopter Safety Team, expressed his enthusiasm for the project: “Hughes, working closely with the FAA and Garmin, has been able to create a safer, more efficient pathway for IFR helicopter operations with the implementation of the first COPTER PBN Network. This innovation not only enhances operational capabilities but also sets a new standard for navigation and safety in the vertical flight community.”

“We are very excited to be part of what Hughes Aerospace is doing with their launch of ZK routes. Providing our Garmin Navigation database with ZK routes capability will allow helicopter operators to utilize advanced navigation procedures, simplifying their everyday missions.” –Carl Wolf, Garmin Vice President of Aviation Sales and Marketing

The introduction of ZK routes is a clear indication of Hughes’ leadership in the aviation sector and its unwavering commitment to incubating technology for safer, more efficient flight operations. As the aviation industry continues to evolve, Hughes remains at the forefront, dedicated to developing technologies that improve safety, efficiency, and the overall piloting experience.

For more information about Hughes Aerospace and its innovative solutions, please visit Hughes Aerospace website. To learn more about Reach Air Medical Services, please visit Reach Air Medical Services website.

About Hughes Aerospace
Hughes Aerospace Corporation is recognized globally as a fully credentialed Air Navigation Services Provider, dedicated to delivering the safest and most advanced instrument flight procedures. We serve a diverse clientele, including the FAA, government authorities worldwide, and the aviation industry at large. Hughes expertise spans designing, implementing, and maintaining both public and special instrument flight procedures, with endorsements from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and other regulatory bodies globally. Hughes’ services are crucial for airspace projects across North America, Latin America, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, making them a key player for airlines, airports, helicopter operations, and urban air mobility (UAM) sectors. Hughes is the only 14 CFR Part 97 certificated FAA Service Provider. Please visit for more information.

About Reach Air Medical Services
REACH Air Medical Services, headquartered in Sacramento, CA, provides critical care air and ground emergency medical services to communities throughout California, Oregon, Nevada, Alaska, Texas, Colorado and Hawaii. REACH employs hundreds of highly trained nurses, paramedics, pilots and aircraft maintenance technicians to provide service to patients using their fleet of medically equipped helicopters, airplanes and ground ambulances. REACH is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems (CAMTS), which is the gold standard for patient care and safety in the medical transport industry. For more information, visit

REACH is part of Global Medical Response. With nearly 36,000 team members, Global Medical Response delivers compassionate, quality medical care, primarily in the areas of emergency medical and patient relocation services in the United States and around the world. GMR was formed by combining the industry leaders in air, ground, mobile healthcare services, and community, industrial/specialty and wildland fire services. For additional information, visit us on LinkedIn or at 

About Garmin
Garmin products and services have revolutionized flight and become essential to the lives of pilots and aircraft owners and operators around the world. A leading provider of solutions to general aviation, business aviation, rotorcraft, advanced air mobility, government and defense, and commercial air carrier customers, Garmin believes every day is an opportunity to innovate. Recipient of the prestigious Robert J. Collier Trophy for Garmin Autoland, Garmin developed the world’s first certified autonomous system that activates during an emergency to control and land an aircraft without human intervention.