PROVING flights for a new satellite navigation system on routes between Asia and Europe will soon begin, saving airlines millions of dollars in fuel charges, a Boeing official says. The Future Air Navigation System, or Fans-1, had been in limited testing by Qantas Airways and Air New Zealand and would soon include Cathay Pacific Airways and United Airlines, a project manager in Boeing's Fans-1 development programme, said. The four airlines helped in the development of the system on the Boeing 747-400. David Allen said Boeing had estimated each aircraft equipped with Fans-1 could save US$150,000 to $300,000 in annual operation. He would not disclose the cost to equip a 747-400 with the system, but said it would 'pay for itself eventually'. He said 14 airlines had installed the system for future use. 'It all comes down to fuel burn,' Mr Allen said. 'It boils down to savings. There's a tremendous amount of savings involved if you can fly the optimum route, wind-wise. 'The financial benefits are enormous.' Fans-1 allows pilots to fly the most cost-effective routes by using Global Satellite Positioning System equipment to determine more accurate positions than existing positioning equipment. Mr Allen said today's Air Space Management System used lateral and longitudinal separation (the distance air traffic controllers allow between aircraft) of about 80 nautical miles over the ocean. He said Fans-1 would reduce both longitudinal and lateral separation to 50 nautical miles. It was expected to be reduced to 30 nautical miles by the end of next year. Mr Allen said tests had been successfully completed on routes between Los Angeles and Auckland and between Los Angeles and Sydney. Those tests would soon include flights across the Russian Far East. He said United Airlines would soon test the system on flights between Chicago and Beijing that were expected to be between 45 and 55 minutes shorter because of Fans-1. He said Singapore Airlines, which did not participate in the development programme but which had installed the equipment in its 747-400s, would soon test the system between Asia-Pacific and Europe. A Cathay spokesman said Singapore Airlines would also begin testing the system soon but that no dates had been set for the first trial flights. 'We are a dedicated Fans customer. We support the system and we've committed ourselves to it,' the spokesman said. 'We will be entering the Fans system at the first available opportunity but I am not prepared to give a definitive date.' Mr Allen said Boeing was planning to expand the system to 757 and 767 aircraft, and that all new 777s would be equipped with it by the end of next year.