Alaska Airlines to use Advanced Technology to improve Sun Valley airport access

Published on : Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Alaska AirlinesAlaska Airlines’ sister carrier, Horizon Air, has received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to begin using its proprietary Required Navigation Performance (RNP) instrument approach procedure atĀ Friedman Memorial Airport near Sun Valley. The procedure is expected to reduce weather-related diversions by 95 percent allowing Horizon to have the best access to Sun Valley of any airline. It is projected to reduce diversions for Horizon from an average of 40 to 50 per year down to one to two estimated diversions per year.

RNP technology allows aircraft to follow precise three-dimensional curved flight paths through difficult terrain using a combination of onboard navigation technology and the Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite network. It allows aircraft to fly safer flight paths, provides more reliable landings, and eliminates reliance on ground-based navigation aids. This enables pilots to navigate aircraft more precisely and efficiently, while also being able to fly to lower altitudes in to airports where limited visibility upon approach is common due to weather and characteristics of the terrain.

“Friedman Memorial Airport is located deep in a valley with surrounding mountain peaks. As a result, instrument approaches used by pilots are often hampered by low cloud ceiling and extensive visibility requirements, resulting in a higher than average percentage of flight cancellations or diversions,” said Cody Hargreaves, RNP engineer at Alaska Airlines who was integral in the approval and implementation of this approach. “The RNP approach Horizon uses will increase safety in this challenging environment and will drastically reduce the number of diversions.”

This effort, which has been in development for more than 10 years, will allow Horizon to deliver more reliable service for its valued customers. Additionally, the company expects to save up to $600,000 a year by completing flights that would have would have otherwise been diverted or cancelled due to weather. Alaska and Horizon Air are the only major U.S. carriers with a fully RNP-equipped fleet and fully-trained flight crews.

“Just in time for the ski season and holiday travel, the expected improvement in reliability this brings to our airport during inclement weather will greatly benefit our customers traveling to the area as well as local residents,” said Chris Pomeroy, airport manager at Friedman Memorial Airport. “This is a fantastic complement to the other recent facility improvements, including our newly renovated passenger terminal and new concessions.”

Horizon’s seasonal service from Seattle to Sun Valley, Idaho will resume Nov. 23, just in time for the 81st winter season opening at the ski resort on Thanksgiving Day. Beginning Dec. 16, Horizon Air will inaugurate daily direct service from Los Angeles, and will begin twice weekly direct service from Portland, Oregon on Dec. 17.

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