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Alaska Airlines Becomes First Carrier Authorized To Conduct RNP Precision Approach Flight Validations

First airline to receive FAA approval
4/27/2009 9:50 a.m.

Alaska Airlines became the first airline approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to conduct its own RNP flight validation, laying the groundwork for faster RNP procedure approvals in the future.

RNP, or Required Navigation Performance, technology allows an aircraft to fly safer and more reliable approaches and landings. Rather than relying exclusively on ground-based navigational aids, an RNP-guided approach uses a combination of onboard navigation technology and the Global Positioning System satellite network.

Captains Kim Rackley and Mike Adams and RNP Procedure Developer Matt King received FAA approval in December 2008. They've since conducted their first on-their-own flight validation in Adak, Alaska, in hopes of gaining FAA approval for RNP approach procedures there in future months.

Alaska introduced the application of RNP technology during the mid ‘90s to help aircraft land in remote and geographically challenging airports in the state of Alaska.

To date, Alaska has RNP procedures into 23 airports throughout its system, nine of which were developed at Alaska Airlines.

Other carriers have jumped on the RNP bandwagon. Southwest Airlines is embarking on a major RNP program, as is Delta Airlines and Qantas, who see it as a way to reduce emissions by saving fuel on every flight through more efficient flight paths, in addition to providing navigational accuracy.

Alaska hopes to add five more RNP approved airports in 2009. "Being able to conduct our own flight validations will greatly reduce the time spent on the FAA approval process," said Sarah Dalton, director of aerospace and technology. Dalton said she expects the RNP approval process to be shortened to six months, as compared to one to two years.

And again, Alaska Airlines is the leader, as the first U.S. airline to gain approval to conduct validation flights. "Being first always is a challenge," said Dalton. "For example, there is no commercially available autonomous GPS system that can independently record our flight path to meet the FAA's documentation requirements." So, King successfully pieced together a system that works better than any other system the FAA has tested and that is well within budget.

"He and the entire RNP team are to be congratulated for continuing to sustain Alaska Airlines' industry-wide leadership position in precision navigation."


Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air, subsidiaries of Alaska Air Group (NYSE: ALK), together serve more than 90 cities through an expansive network in Alaska, the Lower 48, Hawaii, Canada and Mexico. Alaska Airlines ranked "Highest in Customer Satisfaction among Traditional Network Carriers (tie)" in the J.D. Power and Associates 2008 North America Airline Satisfaction StudySM. For reservations, visit For more news and information, visit the Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air Newsroom at