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UK mulls satellite-based aircraft navigation mandate

UK: The United Kingdom is considering making satellite-based aircraft navigation mandatory in certain areas of controlled airspace as part of new proposals to overhaul the nation’s invisible infrastructure.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has drafted a Future Airspace Strategy (FAS) that it reckons will increase airspace capacity, improve flight efficiency, and reduce aviation’s environmental impact.

Speaking at a London conference organised by the CAA, its chief executive Andrew Haines said, “Every day we hear discussions about a shortage in capacity for aviation in the UK, especially in the south east of England. That focuses almost entirely on runways, but there is much that can be improved just by enhancing airspace utilisation, and if we don’t get airspace right, we won’t be able to make best use of any new airport capacity.

“What is more, airspace has a significant impact on the overall efficiency of aviation and also its impact on the environment. For airlines, the airspace system can be a key determinant of fuel burn, punctuality and runway utilisation.”

Key improvements that the CAA reckons the FAS could deliver include:
-Allowing aircraft continuous climb-outs on takeoff that get aircraft to their optimum cruising altitude as quickly as possible
-Providing aircraft with more efficient routings that save time and fuel
-Better management of arrivals at airports, such as reducing the time aircraft hold before landing
-Linking the whole aviation network together to share up-to-date flight information, thereby enabling better operational decisions and increasing resilience to unexpected events
-Using the latest technology throughout the system to increase airspace capacity and safety

This includes the use of Performance Based Navigation (PBN) that allows aircraft to use satellite navigation, instead of ground based navigation aids, to fly much more accurate routes. The CAA announced at the conference that it will be consulting on a mandate to implement PBN in certain areas of the UK’s controlled airspace, building on an existing policy ambition to adopt PBN in the terminal and around airports. Basic PBN capability is already mandated in en-route airspace.

In its latest guidance on deployment of the strategy , the CAA said it will lead a centralised programme to coordinate the implementation of PBN.

“The programme will concentrate on the use of mandates to drive adoption of PBN in specific areas of the network and on specified routes,” it states. “Impact assessments will be undertaken by the regulator in conjunction with industry to guide the transition to full PBN adoption in these areas.”

The CAA will also seek to expedite implementation of simpler PBN replications at low altitudes around airports and promote the use of more advanced capabilities (RNP) where there is a sufficiently high level of equipage and the potential to realise significant benefits.

Source: Air Traffic Management