Julian Moxon/PARIS

The European Commission (EC)has promised a complete review of the region's plans for global-navigation-satellite systems (GNSS)by the end of the year, following complaints from airlines that the existing programme should be halted.

The Association of European Airlines (AEA) raised the issue early in October with an open letter arguing that the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay System (EGNOS) should be "stopped" and efforts concentrated on an all-new GNSS-2 system.

In a move which reflects similar doubts in the USA over development of the Wide Area Augmentation System(WAAS), the AEA says that EGNOS will provide "no commercial benefits", will not adequately meet precision approach requirements and "will be too expensive".

Instead the AEA is pushing the authorities to approve full use of today's global-positioning system (GPS) with the necessary onboard augmentations pending the introduction of a GNSS-2.

It argues that all of the functional benefits "can be more effectively performed by onboard augmentation systems". It wants the money set aside for EGNOS development to be spent on the GNSS-2 and on extra research on autonomous Category 2 and 3 satellite landing systems.

The EC, a member of the tri-partite EGNOS group, together with the European Space Agency and Eurocontrol, has responded by promising a year-end review, with a further report on the GNSS-2 scheduled by the end of 1998.

On 21 October, EC transport commissioner Neil Kinnock told the Intelligent Transport Systems symposium in Berlin that his preference "would be to develop a single global system with our international partners", but he added that if the initiative failed, Europe should "press ahead with its own system".

An industry consortium led by Thomson-CSF is evaluating the technical options possible with the EGNOS and will present its findings to the tri-partite group in preparation for a decision by the end of the year on how the programme will be structured.

A Eurocontrol source says that "the basic objective of sole means navigation for Category 1 landing capability is still in place, but we have not yet decided how to get there". An EC source also denies that the airlines would be charged for the EGNOS. "There is no suggestion the airlines should pay for the capital cost of the system," he says.

The US Federal Aviation Administration and its Italian counterpart, Ente Nationale Di Assistenza Al Volo, have successfully demonstrated the WAAS in European airspace. In the tests on 20-22 October at Rome Ciampino Airport, an FAA Boeing 727 used signals from the US National Satellite Test Bed and Italy's Mediterranean Test Bed.

The tests included a series of Category I precision approaches by the FAA aircraft. Initial deployment of WAAS in the USA is planned for early 1999, with a fully operational system in place by the end of 2001.

Source: Flight International