Lufthansa initiates GPS approaches in Russia

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German carrier Lufthansa has put into operation a GPS-based landing approach system which will be used on its scheduled flights to Samara International Airport, Russia.

GPS approaches enable airlines to use on-board navigation avionics alone to fly non-precision approaches into airports which may not be equipped with other forms of navaid. Because they eliminate the need for ground-based equipment, GPS procedures can be implemented relatively quickly and at little cost to the airport.

This simplicity theoretically makes GPS approaches ideal for airports in developing countries and remote regions, where traffic levels may not justify the expense of navaids.

Yet adoption of GPS procedures has been held up, partly because of the slow development of international ICAO standards. Most GPS approaches have so far been developed for US airports, for which the FAA uses its own national criteria - known as TERPS - to create terminal approach procedures. Around 2,000 such procedures are already in place in the US.

For the Samara approach, ICAO has issued licenses only to Lufthansa's aircraft - including its Airbus A320s, A330/340s and Boeing 747-400s - to conduct the landings with the assistance of satellite navigation avionics.

Lufthansa regional director for CIS states Ulrich Rueger explains: "This technology enables pilots to approach runway without being necessarily guided from the ground by air traffic controllers. It helps increase flight safety significantly."

Preparation did not entail any expense from the Samara airport authority, notes Rueger. He adds: "Employing the new system required only the plugging-in of navaid equipment aboard our aircraft."

Under an agreement between German and Russian aviation authorities, Lufthansa will continue to work on the implementation of satellite navigation technology at other Russian airports, to which the carrier provides scheduled services. These will initially include the airports of Perm, Nizhny Novgorod and Kazan.