Flight tests demonstrate benefits of EGNOS in civil aviation

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11 March 2011

The successful completion of two EGNOS demonstration flight tests, carried out within the framework of the EU-funded GIANT-2 project, illustrates the potential value of EGNOS in improving aviation safety and efficiency throughout Europe. The test flights showed that applications such as civil aviation and search and rescue operations can benefit from EGNOS technology, ahead of the Commission’s declaration of EGNOS Safety-of-Life (SoL) service for aviation.

Regional benefits


The first test flight was carried out onboard a Cessna 172 plane at the Cuatro Vientos and Córdoba airports in Spain. These trials, which aimed to demonstrate EGNOS’ potential in helping small and medium airports run more safely and efficiently, were executed by an international team led by Aena (Aeropuertos Españoles y Navegación Aérea), the Spanish Air Navigation Service Provider. “EGNOS has real potential to benefit small and medium size airports, where time savings are important,” says GIANT-2 project coordinator Luis Chocano, who is head of space programmes at INECO.

A total of 9 Localizer Performance with Vertical (LPV) guidance approaches were flown. LPV approaches use new aircraft avionics that exploit satellite signals provided by Satellite-Based Augmentation Systems (SBASs) such as EGNOS, in addition to those provided by GPS. The EGNOS signals improve the performance meaning that safer instrument approach procedures with horizontal and vertical guidance can be performed, without the need for any local ground based radio-navigation aid.

It was important that the trials, which were carried out in February 2011 during the EGNOS SoL Observation Period, were executed in real operational scenarios with the participation of end users, before the EGNOS SoL service is made available to civil aviation users in Europe. Relevant user information was collected in order to detect potential issues, along with general user feedback.

The trials provided clear evidence that flight operations based on GPS/EGNOS will provide European airspace users with tangible safety and operational benefits as soon as EGNOS Safety-of-Life (SoL) is declared in service and flight procedures begin to be available for public use in the short term,” said GIANT flight trials coordinator Pablo Haro of Aena.

Pilots involved in the trials were enthusiastic about the new navigation era arising with EGNOS.

Search and rescue

The second flight test involved SAR helicopters off the Italian sea coast, and enabled a vitally important potential end user – the Italian Coast Guard – to use the navigation technology for maritime search and rescue. Emergency services rely on the speed and versatility of helicopters, because their ability to reach locations without landing aids - in medical evacuations or rescue missions for example - often makes them the only feasible method of transport. Adverse conditions however can often stop them landing because instrument approaches are not available. Indeed, due to inadequacies of current onboard navigation systems, a number of missions have to be aborted.

This is where EGNOS comes in, by offering significantly enhanced horizontal and vertical precise navigation. It provides improved positioning measurements by using network of reference stations in 20 countries, which pick up signals from GPS satellites. The result is substantially improved accuracy and data integrity. The purpose of these flight tests, in which helicopters departed from and landed in Cascina Costa, was therefore to assess the vertical guidance offered, and to examine the impact on improved safety for helicopter approaches. Agusta Westland was the SAR helicopter trials coordinator.

A GIANT step forward

These flight demonstrations were carried out in the framework of the GIANT-2 project, managed by the GSA as part of the European Commission’s 7th Framework Programme and coordinated by INECO.  GIANT -2 (GNSS Introduction In the AviatioN sector -2) aims to continue the successful work started in the previous GIANT project in introducing EGNOS to the aviation sector. The introduction of EGNOS applications in the area of Regional and General Aviation, helicopter HEMS (Medical) operations and North Sea Oil Rigs operations were successfully trialled in the GIANT, GIANT 2 and HEDGE projects. 

The focus of the GIANT- 2 project is also on introducing EGNOS enabled operations to end users themselves within identified niche markets, the final goal being the use of integrated avionics onboard. The GIANT-2 project therefore represents a step forward in the promotion of EGNOS aviation applications in key niche markets. The next LPV flight demonstration – dealing with business aviation - will be performed onboard a Falcon 2000 aircraft in Cuatro Vientos and Santander airports in the coming months.

Updated: Sep 02, 2014