AOPA is carefully scrutinizing a recent policy announcement by the FAA that could affect current general aviation capabilities to fly routes, arrivals, departures, and approaches. Before leaving office, FAA Administrator Jane Garvey committed the FAA to develop and implement airspace and procedures based on required navigation performance (RNP) by July 22, 2003. RNP refines and standardizes area navigation (RNAV) procedures. Although RNP is especially useful to high-end business aircraft and commercial airliners, AOPA doesn't want standards to be set so high that GA pilots are excluded from using the RNAV (eventually RNP) airspace or are forced to buy expensive new avionics.
RNAV is the ability to navigate directly from point to point, rather than following a zigzag course from one navigational aid (such as a VOR) to another. The FAA intends to establish new routes, including arrival and departure procedures in busy airspace, based on RNP. In order to fly these routes, aircraft would need navigation equipment meeting the RNP standards.
RNP essentially sets levels of capability, based upon the avionics installed in an aircraft, stated as an RNP number (e.g., RNP-0.3, RNP-1, RNP-4). Departure, en route, and approach procedures would also have RNP numbers, and aircraft would be required to have aboard the appropriate equipment to meet that level of capability.
"Let's not sacrifice quality to meet a deadline," said Randy Kenagy, AOPA director of advanced technology. "There is an urgent need to clarify many questions before RNP concepts are committed to regulations. For example, will today's IFR-certified GPS receiver meet basic RNP requirements? RNP standards should not be set so high that GA pilots are excluded from RNP airspace unless they buy expensive new avionics."
Other questions concern the possible proliferation of instrument approach charts as new RNP routes are added in terminal areas.
"We want to be sure that the RNP standards are 'transparent,' that a GPS receiver currently approved for use under instrument flight rules is also approved for RNP instrument flight," said Kenagy. "AOPA doesn't want to stand in the way of RNP, but GA has to have a place at the table in the future."