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Architect's rendering of the Santa Lucía airport. Architect's rendering of the Santa Lucía airport.

Advanced satellite navigation system to smooth traffic at 3 airports

It will allow the airports to operate simultaneously

A performance based navigation (PBN) system will be used in the airspace of the Valley of México to allow the simultaneous operation of the Mexico City, Toluca and Santa Lucía airports.

Major José Juan Marín Solís, official spokesman for the engineers in charge of the construction of the new airport at the Santa Lucía Air Force Base, told the newspaper La Jornada that a PBN system – described by the United States Federal Aviation Administration as an advanced satellite-enabled form of air navigation that creates 3-D flight paths – provides more precise information to aircraft about their location, altitude, speed and flightpath than that furnished by navigation systems currently in place.

At present, planes are required to follow the signals transmitted by radio beacons when taking off and landing at Mexican airports, he said.

Marín said that a PBN system will be put into operation in the Valley of México before the completion of the new airport to ensure that arriving and departing flights don’t interfere with the operations of the Mexico City and Toluca airports.

“We plan to migrate our navigation system to PBN, which works with satellite location,” he said.

“It’s a lot more precise than that which we currently have. Before Santa Lucía is put into operation, the airport system will already be operating as if the new terminal existed so that at the time it is put into operation there’s no interference.”

Some aviation experts have expressed doubt that the Santa Lucía and Mexico City airports can operate simultaneously because of their close proximity to each other, while the general director of the International Air Transport Association, Alexandre de Juniac, said last May that the concurrent operation of the three Valley of México airports will be “complex” and “challenging.”

Navblue, a Canadian subsidiary of Airbus, said in a report that the simultaneous operation of the Toluca and Santa Lucía airports is possible but the use of airspace will have to be redesigned to ensure their compatibility.

Aircraft taking off and landing at the two México state airports will have to take the most precise and shortest routes possible to ensure that they don’t interfere with each other, the flight operations software company said. Major Marín expressed confidence that a PBN system will allow that to occur.

The military spokesman also said that a Category 3 Instrument Landing System, or ILS, will be installed at the Santa Lucía airport, which he said will make it the most modern in Latin America.

The system will allow flights to land in “any visibility conditions,” Marín said, including heavy fog, which forces the current Mexico City airport to suspend operations anywhere between five and 10 times each winter.

He added that the planes used by the majority of commercial airlines are equipped to make use of PBN and Category 3 ILS, both of which are already used in many countries.

Just over 100 days after construction began, the new airport is 3.92% complete and remains on schedule to be finished on March 21, 2022, La Jornada said. The newspaper also reported that international aviation organizations will be invited to the site in the coming weeks to verify that the construction is meeting international standards.

More than 6,000 civilian workers are collaborating on the project with 840 military personnel. President López Obrador gave the Secretariat of Defense responsibility for the airport after canceling the previous government’s US $13-billion Texcoco project.

The architect chosen to design the new airport said that traveling via Santa Lucía will be a “memorable experience” but will be required to comply with the government’s promise to build an airport that is “austere in its design.”

Marín promised that will be the case.

“We’re going to have an austere airport but it will be functional. . . and it will comply with all national and international standards. . .” he said.

Source: La Jornada (sp) 

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