Instrument Calibration

Vital navigational work for the safety of all aircraft and passengers.

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Ensuring aircraft are on the correct approach path to an airport runway is vital.


Systems checks in South East Asia: This Vincent Aviation Reims 406 powers over Suai airport as it helps calibrate navigational aids.

This is why calibration of navigational aids such as instrument landing systems (ILS) is so critical. Vincent Aviation and Airways New Zealand work closely to calibrate the various navigation aids throughout New Zealand, the Pacific Islands, Papua New Guinea and various countries in South-East Asia.

The relationship was formed in 2002 when Vincent Aviation successfully won the Airways New Zealand tender to provide an aircraft and suitably qualified crew to fly calibration equipment and technicians to various airports throughout this part of the world.

The company’s Reims F406 aircraft are well suited to the role – they allow rapid transit between airports and long range cruises between countries, especially the islands of the South Pacific. Airways New Zealand has often remarked on this aircraft’s flexibility.

Aircraft performing the calibration work are fitted with additional aerials, communication and monitoring equipment so they can measure the signals generated by navigational beacons. The aircraft themselves are calibrated to fine tolerances to ensure they meet the precise requirements. Vibration is kept to a minimum so all approaches are flown “clean” – wheels and flaps up.

Flight calibration is demanding. It requires precise co-ordination between the ground-based technician, air traffic control and the pilots. The pilot accurately flies the approach where the aircraft’s progress is measured by GPS-based computer equipment. It is not unusual to see the aircraft flown low on approach, then spectacularly climb away in a manoeuvre similar to a ‘buzz and break’. A computer report is produced to allow the necessary adjustment to the navigation aid. Rechecking is normally carried out to confirm the adjustments have been carried out correctly.

In addition to the approach navigation aids, en-route navigation beacons and airport lights, pilot approach lights also require calibration. In New Zealand, for example, Vincent Aviation conducts a complete calibration of all airports and aids around the country every six months.

Calibration of new landing and takeoff procedures is a common task. Before a new approach or departure procedure is certified and cleared for general use it is checked by ground-based personnel before it is flown. This ensures the required obstacle clearance, such as hills and buildings, has been met.

Airways New Zealand has contracts with various countries around the world. It is recognised internationally as a leading provider of air navigation systems and air traffic control services. The Vincent team has calibrated airports in far away places such as Nepal, Bangladesh, and Philippines, creating challenges for flight planning and clearances to operate in these countries.

The pilots and technicians work as a team. This is evident in the far flung areas of the Pacific Islands. Repairs to lights and beacons are often carried out as they are detected. With these remote places, it can take weeks or months to get a repair technician to the site, so prompt on-site repairs and recalibrations are carried out on the spot. Vincent Aviation has just introduced an electric grass trimmer to the aircraft equipment kit so staff can mow the grass around approach and runway lights. The pilots regularly mow the grass areas prior to flying the calibration run. This just adds to the variation and interest of their working day.

Vincent Aviation is proud of its relationship with Airways New Zealand and the ability of its pilots to adapt to remote area challenges. This reflects the high standards the company demands from its pilots and staff.