Lugano finally gets a Permanent approach

 - September 13, 2006, 7:06 AM

Southern Switzerland’s Lugano Agno regional airport finally gained a permanent instrument approach procedure for Runway 1 on September 1, when the Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) slightly modified and adopted the provisional approach in effect since October 2003.

The new procedure, supported by new steep approach markers on the ground, cuts in half the certified tailwind limit for each aircraft type and limits admissible deviations from the glideslope to one dot. The approach slope remains at 6.65 degrees, but aircraft certified for at least six-degree descents can use it, if the manufacturer provides a so-called letter of non-objection. Below 500 feet, aircraft transition to six degrees with the help of a precision approach path indicator.

Lugano Agno has hosted scheduled traffic since the 1970s, when Crossair developed its regional network. In 1984 the airport installed an ILS at Crossair’s request. However, because Lugano’s single runway faces a relatively high mountain to the south–the Monte Piambello, beyond an arm of Lake Lugano–incoming aircraft must descend at an angle of 6.65 degrees toward the ILS-equipped Runway 1.

After almost two decades of uneventful instrument landings at Lugano, FOCA discovered that many airplanes using the steep approach did not qualify for descent angles of 6.65 degrees, and banned all aircraft not certified for such steep angles from Lugano–a move that brought regional air traffic almost to a halt.

At the urging of the Lugano business community, FOCA established rules allowing instrument landings for aircraft certified to descend at angles of six degrees. They included the Bombardier de Havilland Dash 8/Q Series, the BAE Systems Avro RJ85/100 and the Dornier 328 turboprop, but not the Saab 2000. During the transition period, officials designed a new circling approach that allowed all aircraft to descend on the glideslope to a breakaway point, and then to land under VFR on Runway 19. That development brought back the Saab 2000 to Lugano, where it continues to operate to this day.