NetJets Europe is leading a consortium of 15 companies to improve access in all weather conditions for business aviation to all kinds of airports, from frantically busy hubs to quiet rural aerodromes.

The project – Advanced Approaches for all Airports (A3) – is backed by the Single European Sky Air Traffic Management Research Joint Undertaking (SESAR JU) to demonstrate new approach and landing solutions that aim to increase the capacity of the European airport network while minimising its environmental impact.

The A3 consortium also includes Dassault Aviation, Airbus, Honeywell, Elbit Systems, the European Business Aviation Association, a number of European air navigation service providers (ANSP) and several airports including Zurich and Fraport. It will implement the augmented approaches to land project (AAL), co-financed by the SESAR JU, performing more than 200 demonstration flights by 2016 to validate new approach and landing technologies in a significant number of aircraft types using a range of airport environments.

During the AAL project, the supporting technologies under development will be demonstrated and validated in conjunction with new airport procedures. This project will rapidly generate solutions, speed up deployment, and contribute to the goal of air traffic management modernisation. It involves several advanced augmented approach procedures deployed at various types of airport, based on five technologies, including: curved required navigation performance (RNP) legs; ground-based augmentation system (GBAS); satellite-based augmentation system (SBAS); synthetic vision guidance system (SVGS); and the enhanced flight vision system (EFVS).

The project is still, at the moment, in its preparatory phase, according to Jean-Philippe Ramu, a pilot with NetJets Europe. Right now at NetJets, he says, “We are carrying out some simulation trials as a safety assessment, to prepare the pilots, and to measure some reference parameters.”

The project is intended to prove that these relatively new technologies and techniques – little-used in Europe at present – can ultimately replace the venerable instrument landing system (ILS), which is expensive to install and maintain, and does not offer the flexibility to optimise the flight path for fuel efficiency and community noise abatement. Satellite navigation-guided RNP approaches have been in use for years in terrain-affected airports in New Zealand, Alaska and Tibet, but not much in Europe. European exceptions include a specially designed RNP-0.1 steep approach to Vagar, Faroe Islands, used by the islands’ home-based carrier Atlantic Airways flying a specially equipped Airbus A319, and Norwegian regional carrier Wideroe uses a differential global navigation satellite system (GNSS) precision approach with ground-based augmentation to access small airfields that serve remote communities.

Procedural airspace design will be led by DFS, Germany’s ANSP, the Czech Republic’s Air Navigation Services, and Switzerland’s Skyguide, with support from the German research centre DLR and Airbus ProSky. Finally France’s ANSP – the DSNA – will carry out airport an operational procedures review based on results from the trials and how best to achieve their objectives.

According to Ramu, the AAL project “aims to demonstrate that augmented vision and satellite-based augmented navigation can improve access while reducing the environmental impact of all types of operators into all types of airports.” He adds: “‘I am proud to see such a large consortium working for shared improvements. It would not have been possible without the framework set by the SESAR JU. We believe the project will prove the approach and landing operations of tomorrow.”

The use of GBAS and SBAS-guided approaches – including curved paths and steeper glideslopes – will explore new opportunities for accessing large, capacity-constrained hubs, as well as small airports close to metropolitan terminal manoeuvring areas, while routeing to reduce noise impact on the population and fuel consumption by reducing distance.

Further enhancement flows from the use of enhanced and synthetic vision technologies to increase access for business aviation into small regional airports in marginal weather conditions, taking the weight off the larger hubs, and delivering customers as close as possible to their business destination. SVGS and EFVS enable lower decision heights and reduced runway visual range, providing increased accessibility to airports in low-visibility conditions.

Dassault Aviation will be trialling Honeywell enhanced and synthetic vision systems on a Falcon 900 and a Falcon 7X during the A3 project, carrying out procedures at airports including those at Ostrava in the Czech Republic, and in France at Bordeaux, Perigueux, and Bergerac. SVGS trials are planned at Ostrava, and the EFVS will be tested at the French provincial airports, but Ramu says they will go wherever it takes – not just in France – to find marginal visibility conditions suitable for the tests. He observes: “Ostrava, like any regional airport, is looking for solutions to support airport access at minimum airport costs.”

Options include curved noise abatement RNP legs with transition to either an augmented GNSS approach system (GBAS and SBAS) or to a conventional ILS approach. The noise at ground level can also be reduced by increasing the glideslope to 3.2˚ or more. Trials of the curved RNP approaches to ILS will take place at Zurich and Frankfurt, according to Ramu. He says Frankfurt and Zurich were chosen to see if the new approaches “could reduce noise nuisance, and to evaluate the feasibility of curved RNP standard arrivals [STARs] in real environments”.

The benefits to business aviation are many, including: more reliable access into small airports in poor weather conditions; flexible approach and departure procedures that reduce the noise impact on the population; three-dimensional navigation accuracy will optimise the flight path and support continuous descent approach operations; supporting the redesign of more effective arrival procedures in complex terminal airspace; safety benefits from streamlining the approach and landing operations, and from enhanced pilot situational awareness.

Ramu is taking part in a special presentation at the European Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition (EBACE2015) in Geneva on 20 May entitled: “Access, Access & Access”. Publicity for the session explains: “A key feature of business aviation is its flexibility and being able to operate close to the point of business. Should this change, and access to airports and airspace be denied, the whole raison d’être for business aviation would disappear. With the expected capacity crunch in Europe, member states and the Commission are having to focus on finding solutions to maximise utilisation of the 25 busiest hubs in Europe, perhaps neglecting regional airports. Yet solutions to maximise their use are at our fingertips. Discover in this panel which ones can help us most.”

Florian Guillermet, executive director of SESAR JU, comments: “These latest demonstration projects are a fantastic opportunity to showcase innovations emerging from the SESAR research and innovation programme on a large scale and in real operational conditions. I am confident that these projects will further convince the broader community that the first SESAR solutions are now fit for wider scale deployment.”

NetJets may be providing the single biggest and most flexible of the fleets participating, but Swiss is offering an Airbus A320 and Lufthansa an A380 to take part in the Zurich and Frankfurt approach trials.

The project also involves testing flight planning and aeronautical information access via portable devices like laptop- or tablet-based electronic flight bags, which is of particular interest to airspace users not supported by a flight operations centre, as is the case for smaller business aviation operators.

Source: Flight International