Next steps for SESAR deployment

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2014 was notable for the creation of an industry-led Deployment Manager; 2015 for the successful development of a Deployment Programme for the full implementation on the Pilot Common Project (PCP) and the initial awards for INEA/CEF projects. Now we can truly say that SESAR deployment is real.As we enter 2016, it is time to take stock and plan the next steps from a regulatory perspective. Can the PCP be fine-tuned to maximise benefits and minimise costs? What are the candidate Air Traffic Management (ATM) functionalities for the next Common Project?

In a recent article I suggested that the future of air-ground datalink may lie in satellite based solutions (developed incidentally by commercial organisations) rather than terrestrial solutions that are still to be developed. This could be an easy win a€“ particularly if linked to an innovative use of the Best Equipped Best Served (BEBS) concepts to ensure operational benefits for early adopters.

Looking around the flight deck, a system that does seem to be well beyond its shelf life is the Instrument Landing System. ILS is of course the mainstay of commercial airports and nearly all commercial aircraft are suitably equipped. But we have been talking about replacing ILS since the 1970s. Why? Well, it is expensive to fit and operate; it requires large protection areas and when operated in CAT III Autoland (as required in low lying fog), it can severely reduce the runway arrival rate.

And the replacement? The good news is that SESAR is well on the way to developing Ground-Based Augmentation System (GBAS) systems capable of supporting CAT III. Moving to GBAS has a number of key benefits, such as:

  • Maintaining runway throughput
  • Enabling Curved Approaches
  • Lower CAPEX and OPEX for the ground system (one GBAS installation can support many runways ends)
  • Greater resilience to EMF interference caused by buildings around airports

But the transition from ILS to GBAS is problematic and could take many many years – including the classic “chicken and egg” paradox of how many airports need to be equipped to make the avionics look attractive to airspace users? So the question is whether a synchronised deployment programme supported by public (CEF) funding could improve the cost-benefit analysis by reducing the transition period. Our view is that supporting the transition to GBAS would be a great step forward.

As always your thoughts are welcome, particularly if you have other ideas for inclusion in the next Common Project.

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