Alaska Air flights will be more reliable in the future.

By Seth Conners

Alaska Airlines’ sister carrier, Horizon Air, recieved approval from the Federal Aviation administration to begin using its proprietary Required Navigation Performance (RNP) instrument approach procedure at Mammoth Yosemite Airport.

As of November 10th, the minimum visibility for planes landing at the local airport, which had been previously set at 3 miles of visibility when the plane was 1300 feet above the runway, is now a much improved 3/4 miles of visibility at only 265 feet above the runway required with the RNP procedure in effect.

According to Lara Kaylor at Mammoth Lakes Tourism, the procedure may have already helped when Winter flights began on December 15 during a snowstorm.  The Alaska flights from Los Angeles and San Diego were still able to land even though visibility was less than ideal.

Mammoth Lakes Tourism director John Urdi believes that “the addition of the RNP could reduce weather-related cancellations into the Mammoth Yosemite Airport by some 30 to 50%.”  Urdi went on to say, “While it wont help with wind, the increased visibility for pilots is sure to be a major improvement as seen by the first two flight of the year from Los Angeles and San Diego being able to land when without the RNP they might not have.”

RNP technology allows aircraft to follow precise three dimensional curved flight paths through using a combination of onboard navigation technology and the GPS network.  It allows aircraft to fly safer flight paths, provide more reliable landing, and eliminate reliance on ground based navigation aides.  This enables pilots to navigate aircraft more precisely and efficiently, while also being able to fly lower altitudes into airports where limited visibility upon approach is common due to weather and characteristics of the terrain.

Since 1996, Alaska Airlines has been using similar RNP approach procedures across 65% of the airports it serves.

Additionally, the new service being offered by separate carrier JetSuiteX between Burbank and Mammoth lakes provides an alternative option during inclement weather.  If the plane can’t land in Mammoth Lakes it has the opportunity to land in Bishop.  A complimentary shuttle service up to Mammoth Lakes will then be provided.  This alternative was also successfully implemented on the services inaugural flight on December 15th.