A320 family cleared for Category IIIb MLS approaches

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European aviation regulators have approved the Airbus A320 family for Category IIIb precision approaches using microwave landing system (MLS) guidance capability.

MLS was once seen as a successor to instrument landing systems (ILS) before the emergence of satellite-based navigation. But satellite guidance has yet to fulfil accuracy requirements for Category III approaches.

Category IIIb approaches allow an aircraft to land with a decision height of less than 50ft, or even no decision height, with a runway visual range of 50-200m.

British Airways is to use MLS on A320 and A321 aircraft at London Heathrow, in order to reduce disruption to operations during poor weather. MLS installations are also less susceptible to interference such as that arising from multi-path reflection.

Airbus says that the European Aviation Safety Agency has approved Category IIIb MLS operations for the A320. French aerospace firm Thales has manufactured the on-board MLS receiver – part of a multi-mode receiver for the aircraft – and the MLS ground stations located at each runway.

“Airports equipped with MLS will be able to increase their traffic flow during bad weather conditions, no longer having to re-route aircraft when visibility is low,” says Airbus.

French authorities have previously explored the use of Thales-built MLS equipment for operations at Paris Charles de Gaulle and Orly.