Preparing for PBN

Why PBN?

Performance-Based Navigation (PBN) represents a move from sensor- to performance-based navigation. It can be considered a ‘Perfect Flight’ enabler providing a range of benefits to enable safe, efficient, more accessible air traffic management.


  • PBN provides consistent and predictable flightpaths that enable:
    • Straight-in approaches with vertical guidance
    • Circular flow city-pair route structures
    • Continuous Climb/Descent operations (CCO/CDO)


  • 4D Trajectory Based Operations (TBO) are enabled, e.g.
    • Collaborative flow manager (CFM)
    • Arrival Manager
    • Airport Collaborative Decision Making (A-CDM)
    • Departure Manager
  • Increase capacity of traffic / payload
  • Reduce flight times
  • Reduce fuel, noise and CO2 providing environmental benefits


    • PBN allows us to build flightpaths around more types of terrain 

      Case Study

      Queenstown New Zealand

      Queenstown is a tourist and ski resort town that sits on the edge of a lake, in the middle of mountainous terrain. The popular holiday destination relies heavily on air transportation with over one million people flying in annually and an expected 40% increase in visitors predicted over the next 10 years.

      The ATM Challenge

      In response to the town’s strong growth and to ensure Queenstown’s skies remain safe and can cope with the growing numbers, a project to redesign the entire Queenstown ATC system using a full suite of PBN navigation tools and procedures was undertaken.

      The Solution

       Airways’ PBN implementation team created a completely new and fully integrated ATM package. Throughout the process Airways engaged with a wide group of stakeholders including key airlines, the Civil Aviation Authority, the Queenstown Airport Company, general aviation users and operational users.

      The new concept required Airways to drive the project, becoming an architect and conductor - selling the concept while keeping all parties focussed on the outcome and interconnecting needs.

      Trials and Training

      Extensive trails and training were required during the project. Airways utilised a number of training tools to ensure that the project was delivered safely. The Total Control simulator allowed the concept to be trialled and developed to its final state. It played a critical role in training the Queenstown staff to the point where the transition could happen with staff being able to continue operations with confidence.

      Airways also worked closely with affected Airlines in their training of pilots who would use the RNP AR procedures. The trial feedback was critical in refining the procedures.

      New ways of Training

      In 2016 Airways were preparing to roll-out PBN to a further 25 per cent of airspace and following the success of the Queenstown implementation they wanted to explore new ways to train their operational staff.

      Airways wanted to make the most of each controllers time in the Total Control simulator. It was for this reason that the Airways training team developed PBN 101 on the Airbooks digital training platform.

      Using Airbooks allowed Airways to deliver the introductory theory content to staff directly to their devices, allowing them to gain a level of understanding of PBN before setting foot in a classroom or in the simulator. When it came time for their simulation sessions, instructors reported that they were able to run through much more advanced exercises earlier than they previously had, and staff were asking much more in-depth and detailed questions. The PBN 101 Airbook also acted as a refresher tool where staff could look up information at any time, as well as a vehicle for pushing new content remotely to all staff at the same time.

      Try the PBN 101 Demo

      The Benefits

      The introduction of PBN in Queenstown has resulted in:

      • More than double the traffic able to be safely managed in Queenstown airspace
        • Poor weather capacity increase from 5 aircraft per hour to 12
      • ATC pass rate at Queenstown tower increased from 40% to 80%
      • Increased traffic resulting in tourism growth and boost to local economy
      • Dramatically reduced delays (2,600 per month reduced to 330 per month)

       Taking advantages of digital training tools like Airbooks has resulted in:

      • 60% reduction in theory training time
      • Staff self-study and revisit required content
      • Increased efficiency of simulation time
      • Important updates delivered remotely at the same time

        Further Reading

        About the Author

        Phil Rakena - PBN Implementation Project Manager

          Phil is an air navigation services specialist and Performance Based Navigation expert. His role involves coordination with a range of Airways teams and functions including ATC, procedure design, charting, policy and standards, ATM software, safety and risk, and training – and also our external PBN stakeholders such as the CAA, airline operators and airport companies.