In January 2018 we started an exciting two-year project, GAINS, a project co-funded by the SESAR Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, that involved organising live flying demonstrations to validate how concepts enabled by Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) and EGNOS could be adapted for General Aviation (GA).

Two concepts of operation were developed, a Surveillance Concept proposing an electronic conspicuity (EC) solution and a Navigation Concept proposing instrument flight procedure elements to meet the needs of GA, including both fixed wing and rotorcraft. Many flight hours later, GAINS’ results have demonstrated that improved integration of GA in today’s challenging airspace is indeed possible by adapting SESAR solutions to GA’s operations. The headline findings were that:

  • EC improves traffic situational awareness for both pilots and ground ATS staff.
  • RNP to xLS can be flown by a wide range of GA aircraft and pilots with acceptable track-keeping performance.

The project lifted off thanks to the active collaboration, support and encouragement of the GA community, regulators, avionics shops and manufacturers as well as the SJU itself. A special thank you to the eight aerodromes that participated in the project, seven for the surveillance demonstrations (Dundee, Sywell, Stapleford, Duxford, Brimpton, Manchester-Barton and Blackbushe) and three for the navigation demonstrations (Duxford, Sywell and Cambridge). EASA and UK-CAA also stepped up to make the demonstrations possible, and 245 pilots volunteered to fly! Thank you all!

In total, for the surveillance demonstrations 42 pilots in 27 fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft completed 43 flight hours in the visual circuit testing EC with cockpit displays within a 100% equipped environment. For the navigation demonstrations 29 pilots in 22 aircraft flew 357 approach operations on eight advanced PBN instrument approach procedures, incorporating a mix of steep approaches and varying diameter RF legs with LPV and ILS final approaches.

Along the way, GAINS also contributed to regulatory changes that now permit GA to fly RF legs using more affordable avionics.

Now that the project has concluded, we want to thank everyone involved. It’s been fabulous to witness the interest and recognition received from the ATM and GA community during the past 24 months. GAINS was selected ‘project of the month’ by the SESAR Joint Undertaking in April 2019 and was awarded 3rd prize in the Research & Innovation category of the ATM Awards 2019, run by Air Traffic Management magazine. The project has also received lots of interest at the events in which we have participated (including from the research community) and good feedback from participating pilots.

Looking ahead, we hope that the results of GAINS can continue to help promote regulatory adaptations and contribute to the ATM Master Plan. They should also support standardisation and regulation efforts aimed at more efficient installation and use of equipment. We’re also one step closer to seeing the deployment of PBN approach procedures incorporating the features demonstrated in GAINS at GA airfields, contributing to a better use of airspace. Situational awareness can also be improved by the realisation of an aerodrome operating environment where all (or almost all) aircraft are equipped with interoperable EC (noting that interoperability must take account of the needs and capabilities of all airspace users). The gains have indeed been huge!

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This project has received funding from the SESAR Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 783228.

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