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News and Notes: July 2006

by Jack Penning

Posted on July 10, 2006 at 4:03 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 4 at 2:45 PM

I've been busy lately, and unable to update my blog... but there's been a lot going on. So here's a collection of clips from stories I'm following. If you ever have something you want me to look into, feel free to e-mail me at

Alaska Airlines New Approach Procedure at PDX

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Alaska Airlines, Portland's largest single carrier, has long been a leader in the development of new technology to help pilots fly in difficult conditions. Alaska's navigational requirements are much more demanding than many other airlines'... due to the fact that many of Alaska's destinations are tough to get in and out of because of weather and topography.

One of Alaska's newest innovations is "Required Navigation Performance," or RNP. It's an on-board navigation program that combines information from the plane's computer, land-based navigation aids, and global positioning satellites.

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An artist's rendition of an Alaska 737 on RNP approach to PDX.
Courtesy: Port of Portland.

As seen in the diagram above, RNP can guide a plan down a specific flight path, to the end of a specific runway, in even the worst of conditions. In Portland, Alaska officials say the precision of the system will save them about two minutes, and 28-gallons of fuel, per flight. Right now, it's the only airline to use the system at PDX. But its sister airlineHorizon Air, hopes to begin using RNP by the end of the year.

Central California City Seeks Portland Service

The San Joaquin Valley Record reports that the Stockton, California Airport is seeking new service to Portland. The Record says Horizon Air is the target airline, for a package of service from Stockton to Portland, Seattle, and Los Angeles. Stockton officials say service to Portland would open up one-stop connections to a number of otherwise unserved destinations, including Tokyo and Frankfurt.

Southwest Raises Fares... Again

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The Associated Press reports that Southwest Airlines has raised fares for the fourth time this year... and the ninth time in the past two years. On flights longer than 1,000 miles, fares go up by $10 each way. On flights between 750 and 1,000 miles, fares go up by $3 each way. The maximum one-way fare on Southwest has gone up from $299 to $319 in the last year.

Southwest made a profit of $548 million last year, but it says its fuel bill will go up by $800 million this year, creating a defecit at last year's fare levels.

Discounted fares, bought at least 21-days before travel begins, will still start at $39 each way... but seats will continue to be limited.

Fly the Crowded Skies

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The Rocky Mountain News reports United Airlines set a record in June, filling a higher percentage of available seats than ever before. Last month, United's "load factor," or percentage of seats filled, was 88.3%... beating the old record of 88.1%. United had the highest load factor of any major airline during the period.

Record Year Continues at PDX

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The Port of Portland reports that from January 1 to May 31 of 2006, PDX saw a record 5.33 million passengers... almost 3% higher than the previous record of 5.18 million in 2005. Air Cargo saw an even bigger increase... of 4.6%... to a record 166,000 tons.