On 14 July 2022, DFS, the German air navigation service provider, started the use of the GBAS precision landing system for poor weather conditions at Frankfurt Airport. This is the first system of its kind in the world.
DFS has been operating digital precision landing systems, known as Ground Based Augmentation Systems (GBAS), at Bremen Airport since 2012 and at Frankfurt Airport since 2014. GBAS is the term used to describe navigation by satellite, but combined with a ground-based supplementary, or augmentation, system. Only this combination gives the accuracy required for precision landings.
So far, the system has been used for landings under good visibility. Since 14 July 2022, aircraft can now approach Frankfurt Airport using GBAS even in poor weather conditions. Such weather conditions are known as meteorological category II, or CAT II, i.e. a cloud base of 30 metres and a minimum visibility of 300 metres.
Full runway capacity available – even in bad weather
GBAS thus joins the established instrument landing system (ILS) in the ranks of approach aids for all-weather operations. The decisive advantage is the system's digital signals, which are not disrupted by preceding aircraft. With the conventional instrument landing system, separation has to be large between the landing aircraft because of the possible problems caused by poor weather conditions. GBAS, on the other hand, allows approaches with almost normal separation. In bad weather, almost the full capacity of the runways can thus be utilised and delays avoided.
The prerequisite for use is that aircraft are equipped with the technology. Even if just 30 percent of aircraft have the new system on board, noticeable capacity advantages can be expected, as shown by simulations conducted in advance.
The first landing using the new procedure was made by Lufthansa flight LH273 from Milan Linate with an Airbus A319.
The new GBAS CAT II approach procedures were realised within the framework of the SESAR DREAMS project funded by the European Union. In the pan-European SESAR projects, air navigation service providers, airlines, airports and other technology partners jointly develop concepts for the air traffic of the future. This expert group has pioneered the use of the new GBAS landing system for all-weather operations worldwide.
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DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH, the German air navigation service provider, is a State-owned company under private law with 5,600 employees as at 31 December 2021. DFS ensures the safe and punctual flow of air traffic over Germany. Around 2,200 air traffic controllers guide more than three million flights through German airspace in peak years, up to 10,000 every day. The company operates control centres in Bremen, Karlsruhe, Langen and Munich as well as control towers at the 15 designated international airports in Germany. The subsidiary DFS Aviation Services GmbH markets and sells products and services related to air navigation services, and provides air traffic control at nine regional airports in Germany and at London Gatwick Airport and Edinburgh Airport in the UK. DFS is working on the integration of drones into air traffic and has set up a joint venture, Droniq GmbH, with Deutsche Telekom. Other subsidiaries include R. Eisenschmidt GmbH, which markets publications and products for general aviation, and Kaufbeuren ATM Training GmbH (KAT), which provides training for military air traffic services personnel. The joint venture FCS Flight Calibration Services GmbH offers flight inspection services.
As the technological pillar of the Single European Sky initiative, SESAR aims to modernise and harmonise air traffic management (ATM) in Europe. The SESAR Joint Undertaking (SESAR JU) was established in 2007 as a public-private partnership to support this endeavour. It does so by pooling the knowledge and resources of the entire ATM community in order to define, research, develop and validate innovative technological and operational solutions. The SESAR JU is also responsible for the execution of the European ATM Master Plan which defines the EU priorities for R&D and implementation. Founded by the European Union and Eurocontrol, the SESAR JU has 19 members, who together with their partners and affiliate associations will represent over hundred companies working in Europe and beyond. The SESAR JU also works closely with staff associations, regulators, airport operators and the scientific community.
This project has received funding from the SESAR Joint Undertaking (JU) under grant agreement No 874469.