Russia’s announcement before ICAO’s November Air Navigation Conference that it intends to mandate that all aircraft on the Russian civil register carry, by January 2018, that country’s Glonass system or combined Glonass/GPS equipment but not GPS or other foreign GNSS as a stand-alone system (see AIN, November, page 48) met resistance from the international community during the November gathering. Foreign-registered aircraft flying in Russian airspace would be exempt.
A number of ICAO member nations and international groups filed discussion papers at the conference expressing concern about Russia’s proposal. However, none could deny Russia’s right, under the UN’s and ICAO’s charters, to impose mandates on user equipage within its own territory. At best, other delegates could only point out the undue premature costs that GNSS mandates could impose on operators at a time when the world’s GNSS infrastructure is slowly expanding its coverage and its planned capabilities for the combined use of multi-frequency constellations for complete global interoperability plus greatly improved performance.
Consequently, the U.S. position paper was limited to stating that ICAO should “encourage member states to avoid mandating aircraft use of a particular GNSS element and signals and allow use of other GNSS elements or signals that are compliant with the ICAO Sarps (standards and recommended practices).” Separately, a joint statement by the European Union, the European Civil Aviation Conference and the members of Eurocontrol observed “the recent decision taken by the Russian Federation to mandate the use of Glonass equipment on board its domestic fleet will require the development and certification by Airbus and Boeing of an intermediate aircraft navigation architecture by 2017, while next-generation receivers with full multi-constellation multi-frequency capability will become available only some years later.”
The International Council of Aerospace Industries joined the International Air Transport Association in a discussion paper titled “Negative Consequences of Mandating Equipage of Specific GNSS Elements,” which urged member nations to “abstain from issuing mandates for equipage or use of any particular GNSS constellation or augmentation system.” But the Russian delegation appeared unmoved.
Mandate Has Limited Reach
Russian organizations are currently operating a significant number of western-built high-end corporate aircraft, raising concerns initially that those aircraft would be seriously affected by the mandate. However, discussions AIN had with informed sources at the ICAO conference, including IBAC, suggest that most, if not all, of those aircraft are registered in other countries, often as a leasing condition, and would therefore be exempt from the mandate.
There also appeared to be little appetite among western avionics manufacturers for developing a combined Glonass/GPS receiver, for various reasons: limited market, the technical challenges of blending western and Russian system elements, the equally daunting Russian certification process and the resulting high cost to manufacture and retrofit such a system. As for the European delegation’s point about Boeing and Airbus mentioned above, one national representative–who wished not to be identified–felt that Russian authorities might provide a special dispensation for those aircraft operated by Aeroflot, now or in the future.
The conference itself, however, does not decide on ICAO policy and can only pass the meeting’s recommendations to the ICAO Air Navigation Commission (ANC), a group of experts appointed by an assortment of nations. In turn, the ANC reviews the conference recommendations and provides its views to the ICAO Council, which is essentially the organization’s board of directors. It is unlikely the council would attempt to overrule Russia’s plan, but it will relay the concerns expressed by conference delegates.