The European GNSS Agency (GSA) and the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA) agree, with airport access being a key factor to the viability of the industry, EGNOS is clearly an enabler.
Designed for aviation, EGNOS is bringing many benefits to the business aviation industry. For example, business aviation operators base their work on efficiency, which often requires landing at small airports where other navigation aids are not available, or economically not feasible. EGNOS-based procedures can be implemented at these “door-to-door” airports, significantly improving accessibility. As a result, many business aviation manufacturers are already fitting EGNOS capabilities into their aircraft’s avionics.
Recently, the GSA promoted these EGNOS advantages during the annual European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition (EBACE) in Geneva. During the event, GSA representatives spoke with manufacturers, operators, pilots and associations to raise interest and inform them about the latest EGNOS initiatives.
The main message of interest to attendees was the fact that new business aviation units are LPV-capable, and many operators agreed that they want to be able to fly with EGNOS. The Agency was also able to confirm or update forward-fit records from Bombardier, Dassault, Boeing, Daher, AugstaWestland, Hondajet, Textron, and Piaggio, along with gaining essential data from Nextant, Quest, and LET.
Access and Safety
During EBACE, the GSA participated in a panel discussion on Airport Access, where they joined representatives from the European Commission, EBAA, NetJets Europe, Universal Weather & Aviation and the SESAR Joint Undertaking.
GSA Head of Market Development Gian Gherardo Calini said that because of tight time schedules and the need to land at smaller airports, the accessibility that EGNOS provides in all weather conditions is extremely important in business aviation. “This is another area where EGNOS provides huge benefits, as RNP approaches down to LPV enable all weather near-precision approaches without the need for expensive ground equipment,” he said. “EGNOS currently allows 250 feet minima, with the goal of reaching 200 feet minima by the end of the year, which will increase operators’ real operational capabilities and overall safety.”
In addition to the panel discussion, GSA Market Development Officer Carmen Aguilera presented EGNOS based approaches during an EBACE Safety Workshop. In particular, she highlighted the relevance of increased situational awareness and vertical guidance brought by EGNOS, especially when flying to airports with limited ground navaids.
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“Maintaining access to primary, secondary and tertiary airports in all weather conditions is vital for business aviation,” added Belarmino Paradela, Senior Manager of Economic and Operational Activities at the EBAA. “With this in mind, business aviation holds a strong preference for SBAS for area navigation LPV.
SBAS systems, like EGNOS, do not rely on airport-specific technology and can therefore be deployed at almost any airport in Europe – even for helicopter operations.”
“The benefits of EGNOS are particularly relevant for small airports struggling with costs,” said Jean-Philippe Ramu, a pilot with NetJets Europe, a leading business aviation company. “While the uptake of this technology has been slower in Europe compared to the US, both airports and aircrafts are increasingly using EGNOS. For example, NetJets Europe’s recently purchased ‘Signature Series’ fleet will be equipped with LPV functionality.”
“The costs of retrofitting an aircraft with EGNOS-enabled avionics is higher than for operating GPS-enabled lateral navigation (LNAV), non-precision approaches,” added Ramu. “Nevertheless, LPV functionality is likely to be standard equipment in all new aircraft.”
Calini acknowledged that small airports often struggle with costs, but noted EGNOS could ease the financial burdens. “An independent cost-benefit analysis commissioned by the GSA estimated that the benefits for Europe’s aviation sector could total EUR 2.4 billion by 2030,” he said.
Removing Regulatory Bottlenecks
Some of the main challenges the sector is facing today is the possibility to implement LPV to non-instrumental runways, and GSA is working together with ESSP and Eurocontrol towards harmonised implementation throughout Europe.
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EBAA and GSA will also soon be publishing guidelines to help operators obtain their operational approval from their respective national authorities. “This will be a big step forward as, at the moment, the behaviour of national authorities and the complexity of this procedure varies from country to country, and from operator to operator,” said Paradela.
Benefits for All
Belarmino Paradela thinks the future of business aviation will probably involve both SBAS and GBAS. “In terms of efficiency, SBAS is more versatile,” he said, “but it only allows CAT 1 operations (which is more than sufficient in the vast majority of airports), while GBAS offers auto-land capability, which is a must if you are a big hub needing to guarantee 24/7 IFR access in all-weather conditions.”
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According to Paradela, from a commercial standpoint, SBAS is more cost-effective than GBAS since it does not require ground equipment weighing in at EUR 1M. In the end, it is a question of cost-benefit analysis for the airport, which needs to trade precision against cost.
“We believe the big benefit lies in the reduction of business aviation’s environmental and noise footprint,” he concluded. “This will allow for better cohabitation of air transport and local citizens – and of course the safety improvement cannot be ignored as a great benefit!”
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