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Required Navigation Performance is Ready

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Remember that early Christmas present we received from the FAA on December 15, an Operational Specification (aka OpSpec) approving Required Navigation Performance (RNP) Special Aircraft and Aircrew Authorization Required (SAAAR) approach operations for Southwest Airlines?  This important step gives Southwest the necessary approval for our Pilots to begin RNP flight procedures on January 11, 2011.  That will certainly be a day for the Southwest history book!
Well, Maintenance & Engineering spent the last couple of years making sure our 737-700’s were ready to support the needs of the Company, Flight Ops specifically.  In order to change our flight procedures and add RNP SAAAR capability, Maintenance & Engineering needed to modify 345 airplanes with new flight display software and modify the standby power configuration on 330 airplanes while also ensuring that all new Boeing aircraft deliveries are RNP ready.  Thanks to everyone in Maintenance & Engineering for their hard work in addition to maintaining all of our airplanes for safe operation each and every day.
The most astonishing accomplishment in preparing our -700 fleet was the software modification.  As easy as it might sound, it was an important step in preparing our airplanes for the Flight Crews.  We began the modification in April 2010, and four, yes, four days later, 345 airplanes had new software installed.  This was just AWESOME work by Maintenance Planning, Dispatch, and Aircraft Maintenance Technicians (AMTs) to reach this accomplishment.  Following several days of training, Flight Crews were anxious to fly a -700 with the flight display software.  Since April, Maintenance & Engineering has only received praise for the new flight display.
We are not done yet though, we still have 195 Classics, or 737-300 aircraft, to add RNP SAAAR capability to.  To begin the upgrade process, we have been adding a second flight management computer and a dual global positioning system (GPS) to these airplanes over the last the last few years.  That work is still ongoing with a first airplane modification set for later this year that will add the required map display and some other upgrades that will give the Flight Crews the look and feel of a -700 flight deck.  We will not modify our entire Classic fleet, but there will be -300s in the fleet until 2021, and the need for common procedures and the added situational awareness for our Flight Crews along with the reduced carbon emissions and fuel savings is worth this effort.
I’ll stand proud among my Team and everyone else who has worked so hard to make this milestone called RNP a reality tomorrow.