First-ever SWISS landing in Zurich using satellite-based navigation

19 November 2010

A SWISS aircraft landed in Zurich for the first time using satellite-based RNAV/GNSS navigation procedures a few days ago. The aircraft landed on the airport’s Runway 14. The new approach procedure is part of Switzerland’s CHIPS programme, under which the country’s airports, skyguide, the Federal Office of Civil Aviation, the Swiss Air Force and SWISS are jointly striving to adopt new satellite-based navigation procedures.

The aircraft – Airbus A321 HB-IOC – was performing a ferry flight from East Midlands Airport in the UK, and had no passengers aboard. After due consultation with air traffic services provider skyguide, the flight received clearance to perform its satellite-based approach. Despite strong side wind conditions, the landing was performed without incident or event.

The new approach procedure is part of Switzerland’s CHIPS programme (CHIPS stands for the CH-wide Implementation Programme for Single European Sky-oriented activities and technologies), under which the country’s airports, skyguide, the Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA), the Swiss Air Force and SWISS are jointly striving to adopt new satellite-based navigation procedures. The new approach has been developed on the basis of the usual calculation methods, has been approved by the FOCA and has been validated using a specially-equipped test aircraft. SWISS’s pilots have also been able to trial the new approach themselves in the company’s simulators.

SWISS generally supports the development of alternative approach procedures, including those based on satellite technology. Such procedures cannot be adopted as standard, however, until the infrastructure on the ground has been sufficiently developed.

The entire SWISS Airbus fleet has been equipped and certificated to perform RNAV/GNSS satellite-based approaches since 2008. Such approaches have already been adopted in certain countries. SWISS will continue to pursue this path with the introduction of the new Bombardier CSeries for its regional operations from 2014 onwards.

The global adoption of satellite-based approach procedures with vertical guidance, as has been demanded by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), will increase the safety of non-precision approaches, which are still in use at many airports outside Switzerland. Satellite-based navigation also permits the development of more efficient and more ecofriendly flight procedures.