SMART Approaches flight path trial draft report released

30 May 2014

Auckland Airport, Airways New Zealand and the Board of Airline Representatives New Zealand (BARNZ) have today released a draft report on the SMART Approaches flight path trial for public feedback.

The SMART Approaches trial tested three new flight approaches to Auckland airport, two from the north and one from the south, utilising satellite based navigation enabling shorter, more efficient, curved landing approaches.

The global move towards the satellite based navigation technology used in the SMART Approaches flight path trial is an initiative embraced by the International Civil Aviation Organisation which aims to reduce the impact of aviation on the environment and communities, while maintaining safety levels.

The trial found SMART Approaches reduced flight times and led to a significant reduction in fuel burn and carbon emissions.

During the course of the trial, aircraft using the northern SMART flight paths (approximately five per day) flew 25,000 fewer nautical miles, resulting in a 739,000 kilogramme reduction in carbon dioxide emissions and a 234,000 kilogramme reduction in fuel use.

During the trial independent acoustics consultants measured the impact of SMART Approaches on noise levels over residential areas and determined that while individual SMART flights had marginally higher noise levels (approximately three decibels higher on average), the difference was not regarded as significant and would be expected to be only just perceptible to the human ear. The one exception to this was at Reinheimer Place in Flat Bush, where the difference was a perceptible seven decibels.

Public feedback on the trial has been taken into account and as a result of this the draft report recommends that SMART Approaches to the airport be restarted in early 2015, with two key modifications.

The modified flight paths would see aircraft cross the navigational waypoint above Mt Albert and Dominion Roads (referred to as LOSGA) 800ft higher than the trial altitude, reducing engine power and noise and enabling a more continuous descent.

The second recommended modification is to increase maximum permitted aircraft speed, thereby reducing the use of speed brakes which are a significant contributor to aircraft noise.

Analysis of public feedback on the trial found only 24% of flights identified in the feedback were actually operating SMART Approaches. The majority related to aircraft on existing flight paths and a significant amount of feedback was about a certain aircraft procedure known as visual flight approaches, which allow for aircraft to fly lower than SMART Approaches over residential areas.

In order to address this and contribute to the overall goal of noise reduction the draft report also recommends that the practice of visual flight approaches cease for wide-body jet aircraft approaching from the north from September this year and for all jets from September 2015.

BARNZ’s Executive Director, John Beckett, says, “The environmental benefits of SMART Approaches present a very exciting opportunity for our industry. We believe fuel and carbon savings can be achieved, and at the same time noise impacts on the Auckland community can be reduced.”

Auckland Airport’s General Manager of Aeronautical Operations, Judy Nicholl, says, “We thank the community for its feedback on the trial. We believe the recommendations in the draft report respond appropriately to both community concern and the aviation objectives of the trial. We now look forward to receiving public feedback on the recommendations.”

Airways New Zealand’s General Manager Systems Operator, Pauline Lamb, says, “The SMART Approaches trial is part of the New Zealand government’s National Airspace Policy to improve safety and efficiency and to align New Zealand with the global shift to satellite based navigation. This trial has been an important step in ensuring New Zealand keeps pace with international best-practice, while at the same time limiting the impact of flight paths on the community.”

Aucklanders are invited to provide feedback on the draft report. Submissions can be made until 5pm on Friday, 27 June 2014 either online or by completing the submission form at Auckland Airport, Airways New Zealand and BARNZ will also hold a series of consultation forums to receive submissions. The details of these sessions are available online. A final report on the SMART Approaches flight path trial will be published in the fourth quarter of 2014.


Notes to editors:

Images and graphs in the draft report are available for use by media – contact Simon Lambourne on 027 477 6120 for copies.

The following recommendations have been made in the draft report as a result of the trial:

  1. The Green X23 and Blue X05 [northern] SMART flight paths to Auckland Airport should be restarted in early 2015, but with the following modifications;

    a) the minimum height of an aircraft using that new SMART flight path at LOSGA (the navigational waypoint approximately at the intersection of Mount Albert and Dominion Roads) increase from 4,000 feet to at least 4,800 feet; and

    b) the maximum permitted air speed of an aircraft using that new SMART flight path be increased; and

    c) a maximum of 10 flights per day use that new SMART flight path, with an industry review of that maximum number to occur every 12 months.

  2. Airways should design and propose a second new SMART flight path to Auckland Airport from the North to Runway 23 [the eastern end of the runway], consistent with the above height, speed and maximum flights requirements, to enable aircraft to be shared between the two SMART flight paths, rather than being concentrated on a single new flight path. If approved, a maximum of 10 SMART flight path flights per day in total would use this flight path, with an industry review of that maximum number to occur every 12 months.

  3. The Red Y23 [southern] SMART flight path to Auckland Airport should be adopted for operational use.

  4. Any new SMART flight paths Airways designs (excluding those tracks which result from the above) should undergo a trialling period.

In addition, it has been decided by BARNZ and Airways:

  • That all instrument-based visual approaches to Auckland Airport from the north in both directions for wide-body jet aircraft (which includes B747, B777, 787, B767, A380, A340 and A330) will cease from 18 September 2014.1
  • That all instrument-based visual approaches to Auckland Airport from the north in both directions for narrow-body jet aircraft (i.e. A320 and B737) will cease on 17 September 2015,1 at which time the second SMART flight path referred to in 2 above is expected to be available.

The changes relating to existing instrument-based visual approaches are separate to the proposed introduction of SMART flight paths, and those decisions are not subject to this consultation. However, the changes to the instrument-based visual approaches may inform views on the proposal to introduce SMART flight paths, so feedback is welcome on these instrument-based visual approach changes as part of your feedback on the SMART flight path proposals.


For further information, please contact:

Simon Lambourne
+64 27 477 6120
+64 9 255 9089

1 This date will coincide with the publication dates of the New Zealand Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP).