FAA has published the first helicopter area navigation routes (RNAV) for public use in aeronautical charts. RNAVs, also known as TK routes, were previously available for fixed-wing aircraft only. The new satellite-based routes are from Washington, D.C., to New York City. The FAA Performance Based Navigation (PBN) Integration Group worked to establish the RNAV routes in the U.S. IFR low-altitude en route charts. According to FAA RNAV project leader Mike Hilbert, operators fly around 10 helicopter flights per month between Washington and New York, but that number will increase “once the public becomes more aware of the availability of the routes.” Hilbert also expects an upturn in traffic after the South Capitol Street heliport in Washington becomes available for commercial use. FAA is working to assign new RNAV routes for helicopters. A recent MITRE CAASD study indicated that the agency should consider a route connecting New York City to Boston. “Designing the next routes should go a lot quicker—best case could be under a year from initial planning,” Hilbert noted. Safety benefits from the new routes include that helicopters will now share the same airspace as fixed-wing aircraft, and can now fly at lower altitudes to avoid icing conditions during the winter.
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