London Gatwick Airport
with microwave landing systems (MLS) for poor-weather operation following
certification of MLS for Category IIIb
approaches at London Heathrow.
Civil Aviation Authority safety regulators are in the process of certifying the
Thales-developed ground system at Heathrow after the European Aviation Safety
Agency certified the airborne segment on Airbus A320-family aircraft.
Airways has around four or five aircraft fitted with the appropriate avionics
and, speaking to ATI at a briefing
today, Thales vice-president and general manager for commercial aircraft
solutions Gil Michielin
said he expected seven or eight to be equipped by the end of this year.
2011 the carrier is intending to have 63 A320-family jets similarly fitted.
typically suffers 19-20 days of low-visibility weather during the winter season
and each of these days generates about 4.3h of low-visibility conditions. Michielin says this reduces the
landing rate typically by 35-50% and he estimates the loss of revenue to
carriers at €8-10 million ($11.5-14.5 million) per year.
installation at Heathrow will provide up to another seven slots per hour for
MLS-equipped aircraft in poor weather conditions enabling the landing rate to
increase to 29 per hour.
four runway ends have MLS ground stations. The system uses a 5GHz scanning beam
for both the localiser and the glideslope,
putting it out of the range of FM radio frequencies which threaten to encroach
on current instrument landing systems (ILS). Thales adds that MLS is less
sensitive to obstacle reflection.
Airways is to phase in MLS operations next year. Initially the carrier will
perform MLS-assisted Category I approaches and gradually progress through to
managing director for its navigation and airports division, Paul Kahn, says:
regulators are certifying Heathrow. We need about a year’s worth of operations.
But Gatwick would be faster because we’d have all the evidence from Heathrow.”
is the “next target” for MLS installation, says Thales. But the company says
there are several airports – including those at Amsterdam, Paris, Rome
– which could benefit from the technology.
was originally seen as a successor to ILS but was subsequently shunned in
favour of the perceived superiority of satellite-based landing equipment. But
satellite-landing systems have yet to achieve comparable levels of integrity
and appear unlikely to emerge until beyond 2015.
aerospace division senior vice-president Francois Quentin says it is “difficult
to rewrite history” but states the approval of MLS presents a “window of
opportunity” for the technology particularly given current demands on runway