Airbus's modified A300-600ST transporters are set to become the first large type to be approved for satellite-based approaches using the new European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS).

France's Pau Pyrénées airport became the first in Europe to conduct landing operations with a new accurate safety-of-life vertical guidance signal, made available on 2 March.

The European Space Agency says the A300-600STs' certification flights for the approaches are due to begin this spring.

"Airbus Transport became interested because their aircraft go to smaller runways that are not always [instrument landing system]-equipped," says France's directorate general of civil aviation. "They use Pau for training."

Eurocontrol has fitted the A300-600STs with the required equipment and supported development of the initial approach procedure through its EGNOS Pioneers scheme.

"Pilots don't need much retraining as EGNOS works is much the same way as the current ILS," the DGAC adds.

French authorities aim to implement EGNOS capabilities at regional airports, including Clermont-Ferrand, Marseilles - where Eurocopter performs helicopter certification work - and Le Bourget, which should be equipped before the Paris air show.

"Before a suitably equipped aircraft can perform EGNOS-based approaches to any runway, a dedicated approach procedure has to be published," says the DGAC, adding that 100 airports in France should be EGNOS-capable by 2020.

"From the point of view of navigation strategy we see many benefits, notably improving safety on smaller runways where no vertically-guided approach is available."

Source: Flight International