Airport Exchange conference hears EGNOS "good for airports"

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09 February 2010

The value-added role of EGNOS in aviation was highlighted at the Airports Council International’s annual conference in Europe, held this year from 23-25 November in Barcelona, Spain.

The ACI’s Airport Exchange 2009 conference attracted about 1,000 delegates to this bustling Mediterranean city. Among them were top airline and airport executives, representing a target market for EGNOS.

In his keynote address to the airport operations segment of the conference, David McMillan, the Director General of Eurocontrol, said EGNOS is a bridge to creating a unified air traffic management system under the Single European Sky initiative.

“EGNOS will improve air safety and efficiency,” he told delegates. “It is good for airports.”

In an interview, McMillan explained that EGNOS is going to be especially important for expanding the capabilities of Europe’s smaller airports to handle more traffic and larger aircraft.

“There is a lack of runway capacity in Europe,” he said. “Satellite navigation technology is going to be key to addressing this lack.”

ACI Europe represents about 400 airports in 46 European countries. The airports handle 90% of the commercial air traffic in Europe. At the event, the GSA had an information stand and presented a new aviation video (see below) on the use of EGNOS for landing aircraft more precisely and efficiently using localiser performance with vertical guidance (LPV) approach procedures.

Major aviation conference

Hans de With, the Aviation Market Development officer with the European GNSS Supervisory Authority (GSA), said Airport Exchange 2009 marks the first time EGNOS has been presented at a major aviation conference. The ACI bills itself as the largest airport organisation in the world.

“Our target audience is here,” de With said.

EGNOS augments the standard GPS signal by providing more precise location information along with an integrity signal. By itself, the US GPS global navigation satellite system (GNSS) is not accurate enough in the vertical plane to provide pilots with usable glide slope information for precision approaches when landing. By comparison, EGNOS’ achieves an accuracy of 95%, which translates into locating a position within 1-2 metres horizontally and within 2-4 meters vertically.

Since EGNOS is expected to be certified in 2010 for use by the aviation sector, it is important to make more airport and airline executives aware that they can prepare in advance to use the system, de With said.

For example, about 70 European airports are currently in the process of validating and writing the required LPV approach procedures using EGNOS, he said. These include 60 airports in France, 10 in Spain and several in Italy, Germany and Switzerland.

Airlines can also develop their plans to install EGNOS-enabled satellite navigation equipment throughout their fleet so as to take advantage of the new LPV procedures once the system is certified, he added. For example, Spain’s Air Nostrum participated in an EU-funded project and successfully conducted flight trials at three regional airports using EGNOS.

Looking for an EGNOS pioneer airline

Now the GSA is looking for airlines interested in becoming an “EGNOS pioneer” by participating in Accepta, a project funded through the EU’s 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7). Through the project the European Commission will co-finance the installation of EGNOS-enabled satellite navigation equipment on board aircraft and the development of the relevant LPV procedures.

As the EGNOS certified signal will be free, EGNOS-guided LPV approaches will provide a cost effective alternative to conventional instrument landing system (ILS) approaches. During an LPV approach, an EGNOS-enabled satellite navigation receiver provides the pilot with vertical and lateral guidance, replacing or augmenting the function of the ILS localiser – a radio beacon that guides the plane to a runway’s centre line.

Airports currently equipped with ILS will be able to provide a cost effective backup landing system or provide their clients, the aircraft companies, with a more precise landing system. Airports without ILS will be able to offer EGNOS-enabled LPV approaches as a means of attracting regional airlines to them.

For airlines, EGNOS provides an accurate means of navigating en route and landing. Fuel consumption, noise and lost time can be reduced and safety improved with more efficient flight paths. For example, Air Nostrum calculates that using EGNOS-enabled navigation across its fleet will lead to a positive financial benefit of about €6.3 million over 10 years.

There is a strong incentive for the aviation sector to use EGNOS for LPV approaches, de With notes. The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has requested that all IFR runways should also have approach procedures with vertical guidance by 2016 as a primary or back up means for pilots to land aircraft. For European airports this means the use of either EGNOS to augment GNSS or a system known as barometric vertical navigation (Baro-VNAV), which is based on changes in air pressure with altitude.

“EGNOS is a viable choice to meet those requirements,” said de With.

Updated: Mar 20, 2014