EBACE2018 Sessions Address Access Challenges to European Airports, Airspace

31 May, 2018

Representatives from European industry and government came together at the 2018 European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE2018) to discuss operational constraints limiting business aviation travel, and to explore methods by which these parties are confronting and mitigating them.

At the forefront of these efforts is the Single European Sky ATM Research initiative (SESAR) that encompasses multiple programs to modernize the region’s airspace system.

EBACE2018 Sessions Address Access Challenges to European Airports, Airspace

For example, the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) improves GPS accuracy from 10 meters to two through triangulation of aircraft positions between satellites and ground-based relays. This level of accuracy allows for reduced-visibility approaches down to a 200′ AGL decision height, providing smaller airports with capabilities rivalling an ILS CAT 1 approach without the need for investment in additional ground systems.

Currently, there are 537 EGNOS procedures throughout Europe at 290 airports. “Over 30 percent of all business aviation flights today are using EGNOS,” said Gian-Gherardo Calini, executive director for the European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency. “And we aren’t finished yet.”

Another SESAR initiative is the Free Route Airspace program, which is intended to significantly reduce the complexity for flight crews navigating over multiple countries – each with its own ATC center and related frequencies – with the means to navigate directly between airspace entry and exit points.

“The number of radio changes needed currently when flying over Europe is completely crazy,” said Maruan Chida with the SESAR Joint Undertaking program. “The copilot is there just to manage all of them.”

These programs, along with initiatives including ADS-B and advanced performance-based navigation, are intended to make Europe truly a single-sky environment. “In an area where we don’t have geographical boundaries anymore, we still have boundaries in the air,” Chida said. “This isn’t correct.”

New System Efficiencies to Reduce Ground Constraints, Slot Complexities

European operators also face daily challenges over access to airports, including landing slot distribution and time limitations tied to runway and ramp capacity constraints.

“I wouldn’t say the regulations have to change, but rather we should change the way we approach them,” said Globe Air founder Bernhard Fragner. “My [operations] team reports 60 percent of their work involves slot requests, because we’re sending emails to some airports and going to websites for others. That’s 60 percent that should be spent doing other things. We need more efficiency in that process.”

Thomas Romig, head of the Airport Operation Center at Geneva Airport, agreed that better systems are needed to address conflicts between scheduled and non-scheduled operations fighting over landing slot availability.

“Trying to accommodate that flexibility [of non-scheduled operations] into a very rigid and structured system is extremely complicated,” he said. “In the end, our objective is to make best-use of all available slots at all airports. Every slot booked that goes unused represents lost capacity.”

Managers at Chambéry Savoie Airport in the French Alps have adopted a forward-thinking approach to handling business aviation traffic.

“We decided to dedicate slots to business aviation [at Chambery] that are never proposed to commercial operators, and we monitor slot cancellations to make sure that capacity isn’t wasted,” said Iryna Tissot, regional business aviation manager for VINCI Airports. “We can be more proactive and communicate better with operators to offer greater flexibility all around.”

Lockout constraints, nighttime curfews and noise restrictions are other, related concerns that Fragner believes could be mitigated by better engagement with surrounding communities. “We always must think about what’s next,” he said. “If nothing has been invested in [reaching out to] the neighborhood, we won’t realize that until they stand up with a complaint.”