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Friday October 17th, 2014

Posted at 3:26pm

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An airplane spotted by several readers making low passes with its landing gear up near Windsor Airport on Thursday was not in danger, it was just testing a vital airport navigation system.

In video sent to windsoriteDOTca by reader Chris Boychuk, a twin engine DeHavilland Dash 8 turboprop was seen descending towards Windsor airport’s southwest facing runway at a high rate of speed.

The plane’s landing gear was not extended.

As the plane continued to descend, it suddenly switched to a climb, banked to the left and circled around for another approach.

But the aircraft wasn’t in danger. It was just testing a radio frequency navigation system that lets commercial airplanes use autopilot to descend along a precise path for a smooth landing on Windsor’s main runway.

Nav Canada, the plane’s owner, is responsible for more than a hundred ground-based ‘instrument landing systems’ along with hundreds of other navigational beacons across Canada. They work by transmitting radio waves.

In order to test the accuracy of the radio beams being emitted, a specially modified aircraft with highly calibrated equipment is used.

The pilot flies the airplane by hand for several approaches to the runway while carefully testing the ground-based systems for problems and calibration issues.

Airports in Canada are typically tested once to twice a year, according to Nav Canada.

The plane previously tested an airport in Kingston before making its way to Windsor on Thursday. After testing, it took off for Sarnia’s airport.

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