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Airport access – a space odyssey

Dassault Falcon 2000S-001

AVIONICS / EUROPE / ON THE FLY | 16/05/2016

In recent years, the EBAA has seen a steady increase in demand for business aviation. Given the significant time, infrastructure and other resources required to fill this demand, available airport space has dwindled. As large airports become more and more congested, the resulting lack of space is forcing business and general aviation to smaller and usually less-equipped airports. Unfortunately, all-too-often these small airports lack the funding needed to support the expensive ground infrastructure required for traditional, precision landing procedures.

In a sense, this leaves business aviation with nowhere to land — a challenge that threatens the viability of the industry.

“I personally believe access is crucial as business aviation’s added value is our flexibility, and access is what allows us to be flexible,” says EBAA CEO Fabio Gamba. “Without access, the need for business aviation drastically diminishes, and so does its raison d’être.”

With such a strong reliance on additional runways to remain resilient, the industry is likely to face significant challenges if airport access needs are not met.

An affordable alternative to ILS

Fortunately, Europe has EGNOS. As an alternative to costly, ground-based ILS navigation aids, technology such as EGNOS utilizes geostationary satellites and a network of ground stations to receive, analyze and augment GPS and, soon, Galileo signals. With EGNOS, these satellite signals become suitable for such safety critical applications as aircraft landing. Thus, EGNOS-enabled LPV-200 (Localizer Performance with Vertical guidance) supports lateral and angular vertical guidance with a decision height of 200 feet. This is a capability similar to what is provided by ground-based navigation aids, but without the same financial burden of installing, maintaining and calibrating ground equipment. In fact, the LPV-200 system is free and requires no additional upgrades to existing airport infrastructure or EGNOS certified receivers. LPV-200 approaches are considered ILS look-alikes, and the LPV-200 service level is compliant with ICAO Annex 10 Category I precision approach performance requirements.

Just this month the first LPV-200 approaches were implemented at Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG).

“EGNOS LPV-200 is now the most cost-effective and safest solution for airports requiring CAT I approach procedures,” says GSA Executive Director Carlo des Dorides. “The involvement of major aircraft manufacturers confirms that this service is a real added-value for civil aviation, setting the basis for a better rationalization of nav-aids at European airports.”

The approach was flown by an ATR 42-600, Dassault Falcon 2000 and Airbus A350, with positive pilot feedback.  According to Dassault Flight Test Pilot Jean-Louis Dumas, from a pilot’s point of view, there is no difference between ILS and LPV approaches as the design of the Falcon EASY cockpit and the overall workload is exactly the same for both.

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“The accuracy and stability of the LPV guidance is really amazing,” he says. “Lowering the LPV minima down to 200 feet in Europe is a great improvement enabled by EGNOS, and is very valuable for business aviation operations.”

In addition to supporting precision landings, the fact that EGNOS is not tied to a ground-based system of guidance equipment means that different categories of aircraft could potentially use different approaches on the same runway end. EGNOS is also compatible with other satellite-based augmentation systems (SBAS) worldwide, meaning that users of SBAS can benefit from significant cooperation between providers in overlapping coverage areas. The EGNOS signal itself is free, allowing for unfettered use and greater opportunities for innovation

Industry support leads to growth

This cost-effective, easily-implemented technology may be the ideal method for business aviation to expand airport capacity and meet demand, as well as ensure that flights run safely and smoothly.  On this point, des Dorides has praised the use of EGNOS for business aviation, noting that “EGNOS is increasing accessibility to smaller airports and enhancing safety via increased situational awareness.”

This is a sentiment shared by the EBAA. “When you talk about safe access to regional airports without the need for expensive ground instruments, then satellite navigation systems become a very compelling option for business aviation,” says Gamba. “We have EGNOS, so let’s use it in the best possible way.”

“Maintaining access to primary, secondary and tertiary airports in all weather conditions is vital for business aviation,” adds EBAA Senior Manager of Economic and Operational Activities Belarmino Paradela. “With this in mind, business aviation holds a strong preference for SBAS for area navigation LPV.”

Furthermore, as SBAS systems like EGNOS do not rely on airport-specific technology, they can be deployed at almost any airport in Europe – even for helicopter operations. “The benefits of EGNOS are particularly relevant for small airports struggling with costs,” says NetJets Europe pilot Jean-Philippe Ramu. “While the uptake of this technology has been slower in Europe compared to the US, both airports and aircrafts are increasingly using EGNOS.”

As of the close of 2015, over 200 EGNOS approaches were operational at than 120 airports in 18 countries. The goal is to have 440 procedures operational by 2018.

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