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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Europe’s Augmented GPS is Operational, at Last

By Thierry Dubois

At last, Europe’s aviation can rely on the European geostationary navigation overlay service (EGNOS), the continent’s equivalent of the U.S. WAAS-augmented GPS, and the helicopter industry is expected to reap major benefits from the satellite-guided precision approaches it supports. As EGNOS was approved in March for so-called “safety of life” applications, a number of airports currently without a precision approach will be quickly fitted with a localizer precision with vertical guidance (LPV) approach, giving ILS Cat 1-like minima. The first helicopter equipped with an EGNOS receiver will be the in-development Sikorsky S-76D medium twin.

Thales has designed a receiver, the T200NG, that will be integrated into its Top Deck avionics suite. The LPV unit is described as “a high-precision tool that helps pilots optimize their landing approach.” It offers “extremely accurate altitude readings.” It therefore enables helicopters “to land with an equivalent ILS Cat 1 safety in rural or non-ILS equipped locations.” Basic certification of the S-76D is pegged for the fourth quarter of this year and the LPV capability is expected for approval in 2012.

In addition to airport and helipad approaches, helicopter pilots are expected to enjoy a host of benefits from EGNOS. For example, in search and rescue operations, the greater accuracy will allow the crew to reduced the overlap areas in search patterns. This will save valuable time, EGNOS promoters point out. European research projects, included one dubbed GIANT, had previously used EGNOS at the experimental stage to confirm its value for helicopters. For example, a Eurocopter EC155 conducted approaches to a hospital rooftop helipad in Lausanne, Switzerland. It thus brought evidence that EGNOS enables more precise and thus safer and lower-noise procedures.
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For the full story, see the August 2011 print edition of Rotor & Wing.

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