“Work is progressing well,” said Airport Authority chief executive Joe Ngamata. “We installed the glide-path aerials of the Instrument Landing System (ILS) last week, together with the distance measuring equipment for one side of the runway.
“This week the focus is on installing the localiser aerials. That will take us into next week, expecting the flight calibration checks for the ILS and the PAPI (Precision Approach Path Indicator) late next week.
“From June 27, after they’ve done the test flight, over the following week they’ll come back to the computer and see whether it’s all OK,” said Ngamata. “If not, they’ll go back and adjust it, and fly it again.
“All going well we should see the new ILS and PAPI system commissioned the week after next.”
The airport’s old landing system has already been removed – having been pulled out two weeks ago – but inbound flights are still able to land safely using other navigation systems.
“They’re not precision systems, but it brings them close,” explains Ngamata.
“They get up to 500 feet away and if they don’t see the runway they go back up again.”
The main system currently being used in the interim by inbound flights is called a VOR, which Ngamata describes as a “very high frequency omni-range direction finder”.
“What it does is it sends out signals in 360 degrees, and the planes pick up that signal, they can home in on that signal, and it brings them right to that position,” he said.
“So planes coming from Aitutaki or from Auckland, they home in onto that signal – they pick it up at about 250 miles. We’ve got another one down at the golf club they can pick up just about from Auckland I think.
“So for long-range navigation they home in onto that, but when they get in closer, to 250 miles, they pick up the VOR, and that one gives you a lot more accuracy than the long-range one.”
The new instrument landing system will be even more accurate again than the VOR says Ngamata.
“As you get closer to the runway – say 15 miles – you’ll lock into this new system that we’re putting on now and that one will put you straight in the middle of the runway.”
Ngamata said that the PAPI system in Aitutaki is also currently being upgraded. “We will be deploying the flight calibration check to that airport next week too,” he said.