Increasing business traffic at EU's regional airports offers opportunity to increase connectivity

Existing technology could broaden use of regional airports, but needs political impetus to drive uptake, says aviation industry chief.

By Colin Mackay

02 May 2016

A lack of political will is holding Europe back from making the most of its existing regional airport infrastructure, according to the business aviation industry. 

Speaking at a media event in Brussels, Fabio Gamba, CEO of the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA), says that deploying existing technologies could allow business aviation to use many more of Europe's regional airports in all weather conditions. 

At many of Europe's regional airport, pilots have to use so-called 'visual flight rules' for landings, which requires good visibility. Using a technology known as localiser performance with vertical guidance - or LPV, as it's more commonly known - is an enhanced form of GPS with highly accurate altitude information. This allows aircraft to use instruments to land, meaning they can land in poor weather conditions where visibility is restricted. 


Using existing technology such as EGNOS , the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service, a satellite-based augmentation system allows suitably equipped aircraft to make much greater use of Europe's regional airports. 

The technology is already tried and tested and is widely deployed in the US for smaller facilities, which has LPV procedures for more than 3000 runways, while Europe has barely 130.

In addition, by shifting business traffic away from hub airports, LPV technology could help relieve the pressure and competition for take-off and landing slots at airports serving a mix of legacy carriers, low-cost airlines, cargo and business traffic.

Gamba believes such a move would improve regional connectivity substantially, pointing out that costs would be minimal, with no need for expensive, ground-based equipment. 

While such a move would clearly benefit the business aviation sector, it also offers the possibility of providing the technical capacity to open more airports up to low-cost carriers, particularly in European regions that are currently seen as remote.

However, Gamba says that EU policymakers are currently overly-focused on the role of hub airports, reflecting the lobbying efforts of the legacy carriers that stand to benefit and is urging European policymakers to display greater political will in promoting the use of technology to help open up regional airports.


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