European Commission Struggles To Promote EGNOS Acceptance

 - May 15, 2015, 9:02 AM
An EGNOS ranging and integrity monitoring station. (Photo: Thierry Dubois)

In an effort to raise the profile of EGNOS, Europe’s satellite-based GPS augmentation system, the European Commission and the European GNSS Agency (GSA) recently held an event in Toulouse to demonstrate the benefits of a service that has been available to aviation for four years but has seen little acceptance in the industry.

The counterpart of the U.S. WAAS system, EGNOS enables localizer performance with vertical guidance (LPV) precision approaches—equivalent to ILS Cat 1 but without the need for ground equipment at the airport—at 142 airports so far. The number of equipped aircraft is even smaller, just a few dozen, according to Carlo des Dorides, executive director of the GSA. They are precision approaches.

In the long term, more industry involvement in EGNOS would prove sensible, Simon McNamara, director general, European regions airlines association, told AIN at the May 7 event. However, the difficulty lies in selling the idea to cost-conscious regional airlines. “Why would you equip when you have ILS on most airports?” he asked.

A solution might come from air navigation service providers, like France’s DSNA, which has begun withdrawing ILS investment at 50 airports in the country, leaving it to the facilities themselves to decide whether to pay for ILS or uninstall it, Benoît Roturier, DSNA’s director of satellite-based navigation, told AIN. Meanwhile, DSNA is offering to pay for the design of LPV procedures. Annual maintenance of an ILS costs an estimated to €50,000 to €70,000 ($56,000 to $78,000), roughly the amount needed for the one-time publication of an LPV approach.

To encourage adoption, the GSA has recently started offering grants for operators to equip and aerodromes to publish LPV approaches. I has allocated €6 million ($6.7 million) annually for each of the three years of the project. Air France subsidiary HOP!, for example, has decided to fit 13 ATR 42-500s with EGNOS receivers.

Airbus offers optional EGNOS equipment (also compatible with WAAS) on the A350 XWB. The manufacturer has seen 90 percent of its customers choose it, according to test pilot Jean-Christophe Lair. Raphaël Sheffield, Airbus’s aircraft ATM system strategy director, explained that some 15 percent of the runways A350 operators might want to use have nonprecision approaches. “It is small but significant,” said Sheffield. “A diversion costs over $40,000 and even if you use your EGNOS/WAAS receiver once a year, it makes sense to have it on board.”