With EGNOS fully operational for aviation, potential are starting to see the light. The GSA is working to get the word out, hence its appearance at this year's Business Airport World Expo in Cannes.
"EGNOS is there, it is working," said Hans de With of the European GNSS Agency (GSA), "and it has a lot to offer, particularly to smaller airports, like the ones we see represented here in Cannes. We are talking about increasing capacity, safety and environmental performance, and it costs nothing."
Standing within sight of some of the world's most luxurious leisure boats, de With compared European satellite navigation's penetration in the aviation sector to what is happening in maritime transportation. "In the maritime sector, whether it's for business or pleasure, today's navigators are using EGNOS every day without even knowing it.
"All of these fantastic yachts are equipped with satnav systems and all of them pick up EGNOS signals. In the aviation sector it's a bit different. While most business jets are equipped to receive EGNOS signals, they first need EASA certification, and an approach procedure at destination is also required. This is why we are here, to promote the roll-out of approach procedures at business airports.”
One key element, he says, is that airports, flight operators, and especially Air Navigation Service Providers need to be better informed about the real benefits of EGNOS, including enhanced vertical precision and integrity, safer approaches, easier access to small or remote airstrips and under difficult weather conditions.
The business case for EGNOS is an important part of the education process. "Airports like the one in Exeter are essentially businesses, and they can really benefit on that level from EGNOS," says de With,
Among the main factors affecting airport operations are so-called 'disruptions', meaning flight delays, diversions and cancellations, all of which are costly. De With says EGNOS can help reduce air transport disruptions. With its improved vertical guidance, EGNOS reduces approach 'minima', allowing pilots to get closer to the ground before having to decide whether or not to abort a landing. The end result is safer approaches and more on-time and on-target flights.
Chris Beer, Corporate Aviation Manager for Exeter International Airport, expressed interest. "If EGNOS can help us improve our business, then we are certainly interested in learning more about it," he said. Exeter offers both scheduled and holiday charter flights within the UK and Europe, and a large number of privately based aircraft also operate out of the airport.
EGNOS services are free of charge, and this is a key reason for smaller airports to take a good look, because they don't have a lot of money to invest. "All they need to do is establish a certified EGNOS landing procedure, and we will even help them to get that done," says de With.
Also speaking on behalf of the GSA, Carmen Aguilera-Rios says the numbers of airports with EGNOS landing procedures is growing rapidly. "Germany and France have made a big push in recent months. There are now about 80 EGNOS landing procedures available in Germany, covering about 40 airports. In France there are now plans for about 60 in 2012, including the business airport here in Cannes."
The Accepta project
A key initiative now for EGNOS is the EU-supported 'Accepta' project, a way for airports, airlines and operators to get co-funding for the development and publication of approach procedures using EGNOS.
For John Goulet of EAN Aviation Limited, the focus is on navigation aids for helicopters. "We operate out of several countries in Africa, principally petroleum industry-related activities, where we need to get helicopters in and out of small airports and even onto offshore platforms." Goulet says better navigation aids, including satellite navigation systems such as EGNOS, are of great interest to EAN Aviation and similar companies operating in Africa.
"EGNOS can be extended to cover many African countries," says de With. " EGNOS will make a difference on the African continent. It is already making a difference, to small and medium-sized airports all across Europe, and this will also include adjacent regions such as the Middle East, North Africa, and even farther afield."
The GSA has been playing a leading role in getting the word out about EGNOS for aviation, but its presence at key international aviation events has been as much about gathering information as about dissemination. What exactly do European airport operators know about EGNOS? How are aircraft manufacturers preparing themselves? When will new aircraft be EGNOS-ready?
Air service operators have been providing answers. "Since 2010, we have had major European airlines and manufacturers confirming their interest and their intention to make new aircraft fully EGNOS-ready. Today that is a reality and now is the time for airports to take advantage of this very interesting service."