Safer Takeoffs Now Available to Private Jet Owners
Vital safety and operational information is available to pilots for every minute that the aircraft is airborne. Pilots have access to data in-flight about wind speed and direction, weather patterns on their route, and enroute traffic. GPS and other navigation systems guide the aircraft from the moment it reaches cruising altitude until its final descent. Until now, however, data for the most critical phase of flight, the takeoff, has been in short supply for private flight departments. At most, corporate pilots have been able to see maps of their airports and have had little assistance in planning an accurate allowable takeoff weight.
A little known option is available to corporate pilots that provide them with the same detailed, up-to-date data about takeoffs that airline pilots have had for years. Aircraft Performance Group, Inc. (APG) is a company that has provided flight planning, takeoff analysis and airport data to the aviation industry for more than 25 years. Their service assists business aircraft in optimizing their allowable takeoff weight, resulting in greater flight safety and higher maximum payloads.
APG was started by Mark Thelen and Rogers Hemphill, experienced aeronautical engineers and pilots. During their careers, both worked as pilots for major and regional airlines, and as Performance Engineers, where they gained experience in Flight Operations, Planning, and Performance. In 1981, the two started a company that specialized in providing a Runway Analysis Service to airlines. Although they originally offered the service exclusively to commercial airlines, they expanded it to include business aircraft after receiving requests for the service from business jet pilots who had used it in their former positions as commercial airline pilots.
As it turned out, private jet pilots and flight departments quickly recognized the need for such a service, and in two years’ time, the APG progressed from having no corporate customers to providing services to over 2,000 aircraft. APG expects demand for the Runway Analysis service to expand among private jet operators, particularly those who conduct their own flight planning.
The backbone of APG’s service is their runway analysis program. Pilots access the service via the internet where they log-on to their account, select the aircraft and airport(s), and receive an analysis that lists the maximum allowable takeoff weights relative to all temperatures throughout the aircraft’s operating range, for each runway. Another method of preparing the runway analysis is through a mobile handheld device. With this recently developed product, the pilot inputs temperature, wind, and altimeter information, selects the runway including any contaminant, and the flap setting to be used; the analysis is then prepared which contains a precise calculation of the maximum takeoff weight they can safely and legally depart with. The mobile solution requires a device that uses Windows Mobile as the operating system; these include such devices as a Smart Phone, a PDA or a mobile phone. Data may be input to the program anywhere, since phone connectivity is not required to run the program, in the same manner as they would use a computer.
Calculating the maximum allowed weight that can be safely carried on a trip is, in itself, nothing new. The difference that APG makes is in their preparation of the Runway Analysis. APG runs an intense analysis of each airport based on obstacle and topographical information as well as satellite photos taken by the US Geological Survey to determine the optimal takeoff flight paths and loads. Often, the maximum allowed weight calculated by the APG is higher than the weight that would traditionally be calculated using engine-out climb data in conjunction with a TERPS climb gradient.
The maximum allowed weights and flight paths prepared by APG take into account FAR 135.379/.385 and Advisory Circular 120-91. APG utilizes the published departure procedures (DP) when available and will develop a tailored procedure when a DP is not available for a particular situation or when the published DP does not generate a suitable takeoff weight. By developing an optimal takeoff flight path to maximize allowable payload, APG creates opportunities for business aircraft to expand their mission capabilities. Missions that previously required a midway fuel stop can become non-stop missions if the additional allowable payload is used for fuel.
The cost for the program is $75 a month per aircraft for internet-based Runway Analysis service, and an additional $20 per month if the pilot uses a hand held device for the analysis. When compared to the annual operating and management budget of even the smallest private jets, the cost for this service is negligible.
Airport and Runway Analyses have been used by the commercial airlines for more than 40 years and are considered vital for completing safe and efficient flights. This service which has only recently become available to corporate flight departments should be seriously considered by those interested in improving the safety and efficiency of their flights.