Steve Nichols

As visitors were leaving the show on Monday evening a BAe one-eleven took off from Farnborough - and made European aviation history.

In a joint venture between UK National Air Traffic Services (NATS), Racal, British Telecom and Inmarsat, the aircraft flew the first wide-area augmentation satellite-based approaches on this continent.

On its approach to the Defence Research and Evaluation Agency Boscombe Down runway, the aircraft received signals from the Northern European Satellite Test Bed (NESTBed), a research project to evaluate automatic satellite-guided landings. The programme, part of a range of projects to develop the next generation of air traffic control (ATC) systems, is funded by the European Commission.

While the global positioning satellite (GPS) service is accurate, it is not good enough for the needs of aviation navigation as it stands.


NESTBed uses another project called EGNOS (European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service) which takes the signals from many of the GPS satellites and uses them to provide more accurate position.

EGNOS is similar to the USA's Area Augmentation System, but with important differences. The European augmentation scheme uses six European satellite ground stations, from the Arctic Circle to the Mediterranean, and the more accurate signals are then broadcast via the Goonhilly Earth station in Cornwall, UK.

Steve Leighton, a senior engineer on the project, says: "We made three approaches into Boscombe Down and successfully demonstrated that the system works. If adopted, we could see a full European-wide system in action by 2005.

More demonstration flights from Farnborough are planned over the next few days.

The ground systems supporting the approaches can be seen working at the National Air Traffic Services (Hall 3/D8) and Racal (Hall 4/H5) exhibits.

Source: Flight Daily News