1. Tell us more about your job
I train pilots all over Europe in modern general aviation airplanes like Cirrus Aircraft. I like to show them the advantages of modern navigation systems like GPS and the future possibilities with EGNOS, the European version of WAAS.
2. What are the benefits of EGNOS for aviation?
EGNOS enhances the GPS signal and makes it more precise, accurate and reliable. It uses Satellite-Based Augmentation System (SBAS) standards which allow pilots to descend with vertical guidance, making landings safer than non-precision approaches. My experience is that when flying with a GPS-EGNOS LPV (Localizer Performance with Vertical guidance) approach, the signal will be off by no more than 20 cm of the runway centreline. For a pilot it is also easier because he doesn’t have to switch between navigation systems and check accuracy and availability of the system by listening to a Morse code as in the traditional radio navigation.
3. What changes will EGNOS bring?
First of all, airports will have to put the system in place. This will be much easier than with systems of the past. Unlike the past, when it was necessary to install expensive equipment on the ground, with EGNOS the ground and satellite signal is already there and monitored. In traditional navigation you would have to install equipment on the ground on both the approach and take-off ends of the runway. With EGNOS you only need to consider the approach end and determine the two GPS coordinates leading to the beginning of the runway. With EGNOS you can basically design an approach into your backyard, similar to the proven approches with Vertical Guidance (APV) for helicopters onto a hospital. EGNOS allows any landing strip in Europe to be accessed in poor weather conditions at minimal cost. This also allows regional airports to widen their operational window, and passengers to get closer to their final destination.
Another aspect is that aircraft will need to be upgraded in order to process the EGNOS corrections corrrectly.. Our airplanes - Cirrus Aircraft - are standard equipped with EGNOS receivers, and there is no extra cost in using the signal. However, airplanes built over 10 years ago when there was no EGNOS need to be upgraded.
The last - and easiest - piece of the puzzle is training the pilots who will operate the aircraft and use EGNOS on approaches. From a cockpit perspective they need to learn to trust this system, although they will discover that flying using this technology is actually easier than flying using traditional navigation because it allows them to receive vertical guidance and see what their altitude must be at any moment on an approach instead of reading or guessing altitudes and distances while flying.
4. When was your first experience with EGNOS onboard?
In 2008 I flew the United States implementation of SBAS, Satellite-Based Augmentation SystemWAAS, Wide Area Augmentation System, and was amazed by the possibilities. WAAS covers North America and part of Mexico, and in simple way we can say that it is the US version of EGNOS.
In spring 2011 the first LPV was made official at Pau Pyrenees, in France, allowing equipped airplanes to fly down to 254 feet above the ground before making the decision to land or not. I followed the signal down to the runway and saw the white centreline stripes only 10 cm off the track we were flying. The vertical signal took us down the point where airplanes need to touch down.
5. Could you say that EGNOS is the future?
EGNOS will replace about 50% of traditional ground based navigation systems, making flight safer, cheaper and energy efficient. It will take passengers closer to their final destination and allow more capacity in the air.