December 31, 2012
Credit: Credit: Egnos
A small regional operator in Britain's Channel Islands is pioneering a space-based means to ensure safer, more accurate vertically guided aircraft approaches at small airports in Europe, where conventional precision landing systems are not always economically feasible.
The first commercial operator to use the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (Egnos) is Aurigny Air Services, which for the past few months has been relying on the satellite-based navigation system to sharpen U.S. GPS and Russian Glonass signals to less than 2-meter (6.5-ft.) accuracy in an effort to reduce flight delays, diversions and cancellations.
“It would take £1 million ($1.6 million) of equipment on the ground to achieve what Egnos can do with avionics and space technology,” says Ken Ashton, an official with NATS, Britain's largest air traffic control agency.
Using a combination of onboard avionics, procedures and pilot training to enable LPV (localizer performance with vertical guidance), Egnos uses three satellites and a network of ground stations to allow aircraft to perform near-precision approaches using vertical guidance.
Interoperable with the U.S. Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) and the Japanese Multi-functional Satellite Augmentation System (MSAS), Egnos is a suitable alternative for regional, corporate and general aviation operators working in remote areas and small airports that cannot afford ground-based instrument approach systems that use radio signals and lighting arrays to enable safe landing in inclement weather.
Aurigny recently equipped its six Britten Norman BN2A Mk.III Trislander aircraft with the Egnos avionics upgrade. The company offers the only commercial flight services available on the British Channel Island of Aldernay, a 3-mi.-wide stretch of land situated about 5 mi. off the French coast of Normandy.
“It's the connection to the mainland, and in many areas this is treated very much as a bus service,” Ashton says. In addition to commuter services, Aurigny provides medical flights, business and freight services to the island's 2,400 inhabitants. “So there's a good business case for the operator to become involved in Egnos.”