Air Berlin testing noise abatement approaches

Air Berlin is validating new noise abatement approach procedures as part of a joint research project conducted by the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), Deutsche Flugsicherung (DFS) and Fraport and one of the airline’s Boeing 737-700s has been carrying out 13 different approaches at the DLR research airport at Braunschweig-Wolfsburg, while noise measurements are recorded on the ground.

Air Berlin is testing curved approaches to avoid overflying residential areas in future. The research flights in Braunschweig will be simulating approaches to Frankfurt airport (FRA), as the volume of air traffic at Germany’s busiest airport does not permit reduced-noise approaches to be tested there.

Noise transfer is also possible by delaying the descent, so these tests will involve the 737 adopting a steeper glide slope than the typical one of 3°. Along with noise levels being measured during the validation flights, the impact of the noise control procedures on the aircraft and the operational procedures carried out by the crew will also be observed.

Air Berlin will be using the GLS (Global Positioning and Landing System) for these validation flights in Braunschweig. In contrast to the conventional instrument landing system (ILS), which only permits straight approach paths, GLS also enables the aircraft to skirt residential areas and to fly steeper approaches.

Satellite navigation means that the noise experienced in residential areas near the airport can be reduced. GLS can also allow accurate approach flights to be carried out without an ILS even in poor visibility or at airports located in difficult terrain. This could render holding stacks or diversions to nearby airports unnecessary.

“The more weather-independent and flexible we can make our flights, the more stable our flying schedules will be,” explained Christoph Debus, Air Berlin’s chief commercial officer. “That means even greater reliability and comfort for our passengers. Furthermore, GLS allows us to reduce our fuel consumption and consequently our environmental impact.”

Air Berlin is the only airline in the world with approval to use the new satellite navigation system for normal flight operations. In November 2009 the German Federal Aviation Office granted the airline permission for category 1 (CAT1) approach flights. Since June 2007, all type 737-700 and -800 Boeings delivered to Air Berlin have been equipped with GLS. By 2013 the airline’s entire Boeing fleet should be operating with GLS.

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