Edmunds Poruks began working at airBaltic four years ago. Lately, he has been spending a lot of time working on procedures for testing and improving the descent and arrival efficiency of the company’s aircraft. This work is being done under the airline’s AMBER project, which is being cofinanced by the European Union’s SESAR Joint Undertaking.


How did you assume your current position at airBaltic and what background is necessary for it?

I’ve been an engineer since finishing high school and my first specialty was power and electrical engineering. At that time I was involved with planning power grids in Latvia. Then I continued my studies in automation engineering in Latvia and in Aachen, Germany. These studies were connected with electromobility and electric transport vehicles. When I returned to Latvia, I started looking for a job that would be interesting and that would let me use the knowledge that I had gained in both specialties. It turns out that aviation is an ideal field for this. My work with air transport involves both spatial planning and mobility. I have always been interested in finding out how things work, to see what’s going on under the exterior. Essentially, my work is my lifestyle.


What are your responsibilities as a flight operations engineer?

The bulk of my work involves calculations concerning aircraft weight and balance as well as aircraft flight performance. The weight and balance calculations need to be performed to safely operate an aircraft both on the ground and while flying. Our team has to ensure that the cargo and seated passengers on aircraft are properly balanced. We also have to make sure that weight limits are not exceeded at various phases in a flight. Nowadays such calculations are mostly done automatically by computer, which is
why most of my responsibility lies in maintaining and administering these computer systems. Aircraft performance calculations, for their part, are connected with the aircraft’s ability to fly in accordance with regulatory requirements. I conduct these calculations based on each aircraft’s capabilities in order to assess important characteristics of a planned flight, such as the surface type and length of runways needed for take off and landing, the effect of weather conditions on performance, and the emergency procedures that might have to be made if an engine becomes inoperative or in the event of cabin depressurisation, for example. I also perform fuel consumption calculations – an area where we are always trying to attain maximum efficiency. It is my
participation in this latter sphere that is playing an important role in our AMBER project.


What is the AMBER project about?

AMBER is part of an initiative financed by SESAR, a joint undertaking of the European Commission and Eurocontrol designed to promote effective innovations in the field of civil aviation all across Europe. Under the AMBER project we are working on new arrival procedures for airBaltic aircraft at the Riga airport. Our highly professional partners are Latvijas Gaisa Satiksme (responsible for air traffic control), Airbus Prosky (responsible for designing flight maps and programmes for the cockpit computers), the Riga International Airport and the Latvian Civil Aviation Agency. The main goals are to reduce track miles for arrival and approach, to achieve the aircraft’s continuous descent, to reduce fuel burn and CO2 emissions and also to improve the aircraft’s trajectory and avoid overflying populated areas, thus reducing noise levels to a minimum.


How will this project affect airBaltic’s future operations?

There are a number of fields in which airBaltic is continually trying to optimise its performance, such as in fuel economy. We have taken many initiatives on our own and carried them out in our daily operations with existing technologies. But as in all processes, there is always a point when we can’t improve our performance any further without looking into even newer technologies. That’s why airBaltic started to renew its fleet in 2010 with Bombardier Q400 Next Gen turboprop aircraft, which are completely new planes and which operate under the highest possible efficiency standards at this time. We were also able to equip these new aircraft with the latest navigation equipment, which allows for high-precision performance-based navigation (PNB). It is under the AMBER project that we have been able to test this equipment.


What type of new navigation equipment are you testing?

This latest generation of navigation equipment permits us to plan and maintain the aircraft’s flight paths much more precisely. The precise satellite navigation system and the advanced equipment in the planes ensure that we know each aircraft’s location at all times even more precisely. This means that we can safely reduce the distance between aircraft near airports during their approach for landing. Also we can utilise our aircraft’s automatic pilot at lower altitudes, permitting the flight crew to concentrate on configuration changes and better prepare for the landing.


What stage have you reached in the AMBER project and what results have you obtained?

The first project activities began at the end of 2012, with procedures being established until July of 2013. Then our pilots and flight operations personnel received supplemental training. From September of 2013 until May of 2014 we conducted the most interesting part of the project – the trial flights themselves. To date we have conducted 124 successfully completed arrivals – more than the 100 that where initially planned. In each trial flight we conducted measurements to precisely follow each aircraft’s trajectory and parameters for the duration of its flight. Then we analysed the data and released a final report. In traditional or “open” landings, one can’t precisely calculate the plane’s arrival path distance beforehand, which usually entails extra complexity for the pilots. However, with this new arrival procedure the distance can be calculated very precisely. This leads to reduced fuel consumption and less CO2 emissions during a flight. We have worked out two landing procedures: one with maximum efficiency to be used during good weather, and a second procedure for use in poor weather conditions. Obviously, we save more fuel and produce less CO2 under the maximum efficiency variant, but there are still marked improvements under the other procedure as well. As future steps, we plan to continue furnishing our planes with the latest high-precision navigation equipment and to implement these two arrival procedures on all of our regular flights to Riga. If everything goes according to plan, then this will start happening already by the end of next year.