Exhibiting for the first time at a rotorcraft trade show, the European GNSS Agency (GSA), took the Helitech International stage to promote the many benefits that EGNOS brings to the helicopter sector.
The message coming from the GSA booth was clear: EGNOS provides helicopter operators a clear advantage. Specifically, EGNOS enhances vertical precision and integrity to improve safety, accessibility and efficiency for operators, pilots and helipads across Europe. It leads to a substantial reduction in the decision height, making helipads accessible in poor weather conditions – of particular importance to medical and emergency operations.
To ensure the sector fully benefits from EGNOS, since its certification for civil aviation in 2011, the GSA has been pushing for increased adoption in the rotorcraft sector – including Emergency Medical Services.
As part of the event, the European Helicopter Association (EHA) ran a series of informative seminars, including one highlighting the impact of the SESAR Joint Undertaking on the rotorcraft industry. In particular, the seminar highlighted how EGNOS serves as a technology enabler to SESAR and plays a key role towards the implementation of Performance Based Navigation (PBN) in Europe. GNSS technologies offer operational and safety benefits for rotorcraft and opportunities for the wide development of IFR procedures tailored to the specific needs of rotorcraft.
“EGNOS enables new helicopter IFR (Instrumental Flight Rules) procedures, called Point in Space down to LPV (PinS LPV), which allow for access to heliports in adverse weather conditions without the need of costly ground infrastructure,” says GSA Market Development Officer Carmen Aguilera. “This provides vertical guidance to lead the flight to a specific point in space, from which the crew performs visual manoeuvring to the landing site.”
Successful implementation has been developed within the EU FP7 funded HEDGE-NEXT project, which implemented the first PinS LPV procedure in Europe, published at Bern’s Insel Hospital in 2014.
A series of flight trials were recently completed at Barcelona Airport to check the suitability of EGNOS for helicopters. New procedures, known as Simultaneous Non-Interfering (SNI) operations, will now be created, expanding airspace capacity at the airport and allowing helicopters to take passengers to and from the airport to city and business destinations.
Interestingly, helicopter approach and departures from civil airports will be at low levels and at 90° to the runway(s) in use – as long as the Runway Visual Range is within stipulated limits – thus precluding conflict with fixed-wing aircraft.
Good News for Operators
EGNOS is good news for helicopter operators, adds Carmen. “As a key enabler of helicopter instrumental operations, it enhances vertical precision and integrity, thus improving safety and efficiency for operators and pilots at helipads across Europe,” she says. “It also facilitates vertical guided approaches and serves as a high-precision solution.”
The key to taking advantage of these benefits is for the owner/operator to have an EGNOS-equipped helicopter. “New helicopter models already include EGNOS capabilities, such as AgustaWestland’s AW139, AW 109 SP, AW169 and AW189, along with all in-development Airbus Helicopters models,” says Carmen. “Manufacturers displaying here at Helitech International, including Universal Avionics and CMC Electronics, among others, have EGNOS-enabled products, with many also offering retrofit options.”
As EGNOS does not depend on any local ground navigation infrastructure at the heliport, it provides an affordable solution to small heliports or hospital helipads, along with sea-based helipads used by oil rigs where ground infrastructure is impossible.
“With EGNOS, helicopters have access to heliports/helipads in adverse weather conditions and at night, with obvious operational and safety benefits,” concludes Carmen.
She also notes that EGNOS can play a crucial role in saving lives as it improves continuity and regularity in helicopter emergency and medical services and search and rescue operations.
GSA Aviation Market Development Officer Carmen Aguilera
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