Germany’s first purely satellite-based precision airport approach occurred Thursday at Bremen Airport. Performed by NetJets Europe using a business jet equipped with a European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) receiver, German air navigation service provider Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH (DFS) hopes to expand the use of purely satellite-based augmentation system (SBAS) navigation as an alternative to instrument landing system (ILS) CAT 1 approaches.
This first flight is the latest example of the European aviation community’s growing interest in expanding the use of alternatives to ground-based navigation aids. The use of satellite-based augmentation systems such as EGNOS can complement existing global navigation satellite systems (GNSS).
EGNOS is a network of 40 reference stations in more than 20 countries throughout Europe that pick up signals from GPS satellites that are then processed in master control centers. Unlike GPS, EGNOS provides integrity of signal, increased accuracy, coverage and a service-level agreement. This makes it suitable to provide a number of navigation services. At the World ATM Congress last month, the European GNSS Agency (GSA) released an update on the latest EGNOS numbers, noting that there are more than 430 EGNOS-enabled procedures available at more than 300 different European airports. More than 500 procedures are planned.
Bremen is the first German transport airport to operate with the new precision approach method SBAS. According to DFS, the use of EGNOS-enabled SBAS at Bremen has the ability to increase the positional accuracy of aircraft GPS from 10 to 20 meters, to one to three meters.
“In the medium to long term, the DFS wants to use the potential of purely satellite-based navigation and thus create an alternative to the instrument land system," said Andre Biestmann, head of the air traffic control company’s airspace and ANS support divisions.
According to DFS, the road to enabling the first use of SBAS at Bremen was guided by the International Civil Aviation Org.’s (ICAO) satellite-assisted SBAS precision approach procedure under the designation "LPV 200.”
“It applies to three all-weather flying conditions in the first stage (CAT 1): The pilot is guided precisely to a height of 200 feet (60 meters) by means of satellites both horizontally and vertically. If he sees the runway, he can safely land,” DFS notes in an update posted to its website about the first use of SBAS at Bremen.
Previously, the horizontal and vertical guidance to decision height of 200 feet could only be achieved by the use of a ground-based augmentation system or an ILS, DFS says.
The first purely SBAS landing at Bremen was also just the latest use of satellite-based precision landing technology flown by NetJets Europe. At the end of 2016, Europe’s largest business jet operator completed a two-year study featuring 360 trial flights assessing the ability of augmented navigation and vision technologies to improve airport access and reduce aircraft environmental impact at numerous European airports, known as the Augmented Approaches to Land project.
One area of focus going forward for DFS will be aiding the European air transportation community in expanding its use of satellite-based approach procedures at Bremen and throughout Germany. This is also a goal that the GSA has throughout Europe.
In order to receive the EGNOS signals, aircraft need to be equipped with an EGNOS receiver, which the majority of the NetJets Europe fleet already has. However, DFS has noted that EGNOS receivers “have not yet been installed in the aircraft of all major manufacturers.” The agency wants to see “appropriate” incentives created to get more aircraft equipped in the near future.