[Avionics Today 08-14-2015] European aviation modernization researchers are taking steps to expand the use of Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) procedures for helicopter operators in Switzerland, as the PBN Rotorcraft Operations Under Demonstration (PROUD) project team completed a second set of flight trials there. The Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR)-sponsored project is demonstrating the use of IFR procedures to improve helicopter Search and Rescue (SAR) and aerial medical transport operations in Switzerland.
Swiss air rescue (Rega) pilots performing the latest PROUD flight trials. Photo: SESAR JU.
The second set of flight trials occurred over three days, conducted by Swiss Air-Rescue (Rega) pilots flying Airbus H135s using Required Navigation Performance (RNP) flight paths between Engadin Airport and Chur Hospital in the Swiss canton of Graubunden, according to the SESAR Joint Undertaking (SESAR JU). A ground-based team located at Engadin used a satellite-based approach path monitoring tool to study the IFR approaches performed by the helicopters. Each helicopter was also equipped with Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) avionics.
SESAR JU describes the satellite-based approach path monitoring tool used during the PROUD flight trials as a low-cost ground-based safety net, as it provides Airport Flight Information Service (AFIS) operators with verbal and visual cues when a helicopter flies outside of its pre-determined RNP flight path. The AFIS operator can then provide a warning to the pilot.
The PROUD project team's overall objective is to help improve Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) and SAR operations by introducing new procedures that use satellite-based GPS technology. It is one of SESAR JU’s 15 different large-scale demonstration activities. These procedures provide increased situational awareness and allow helicopter pilots to perform more operations in challenging environments, such as adverse weather conditions or mountainous areas.
According to SESAR JU, every year 600 people in Switzerland are prevented from receiving emergency aerial medical services due to severe weather conditions. The PROUD project team believes the use of these satellite-based procedures would allow EMS and SAR pilots to fly people living in the peripheral regions in Switzerland to a central hospital, regardless of the weather conditions.
In Switzerland, pilots are currently only approved to fly Visual Flight Rules (VFR). During the PROUD trials, helicopter pilots are using measurement devices to record their position data and gauge whether or not a route can be flown instrument flight rules. The Point in Space (PinS) procedures being demonstrated in the PROUD trials are a series of pre-determined maneuvers, or instrument procedures that are based on GPS guidance and augmented by the European Space-Based Augmentation System (EGNOS).
The European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency (GSA) has been looking to expand the use of EGNOS-guided procedures throughout Europe ever since it was certified for civil aviation in 2011. Effectively, it is known as the European version of the United States' Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS), which provides vertically guided landing approaches throughout the National Airspace System (NAS). During a recent interview with Avionics Magazine, Gian Gherardo Calini, head of market development at GSA, discussed the benefits of using EGNOS-guided procedures in severe weather.
"Besides being a cost-efficient alternative to [Instrument Landing System] ILS CAT I instrument landing procedures, EGNOS allows increased access in poor weather conditions
in aerodromes with only non-precision approach procedures in place. EGNOS improves safety due to the vertical guidance in the final approach, better navigation accuracy and reduction of the minimum decision height as compared to approaches using conventional navigation," said Calini.
"Furthermore, EGNOS can be used for approach procedures in runways where no navigation infrastructure is available, medium-sized or light traffic aerodromes that may not be able to afford costly ground radio navigation aids. The service provides an unprecedented level of performance for this aviation segment," he added.
Avionics that meet the applicable Technical Standard Orders E/TSO-C145: Airborne Navigation Sensors using the GPS augmented by Satellite-Based Augmentation System (SBAS) or E/TSO-C146 can be used to fly the type of EGNOS-enabled procedures that are being demonstrated during the ongoing PROUD trials.
Going forward, researchers from human factors safety and validation consultancy Deep Blue will analyze the data collected from the flight trials to present more detailed conclusions on how the use of IFR can improve aerial medical operations in Switzerland and throughout Europe.