Flying green with airBaltic
AirBaltic’s Senior Vice President for Flight Operations Pauls Cālītis talks about the E-GEN project, EGNOS implementation and plans for the future.
Can you tell me a little about the E-GEN project and the ’green flying’ concept? What are its objectives?
At airBaltic, the green flying concept is all about utilising the latest commercial aviation technological advances and applying them to improve the efficiency of our operations. We continuously monitor the available technologies and the resulting economies. Other highly important factors include our environmental footprint and the level of emissions and noise, which we are seeking to reduce.
The implementation of satellite-based navigation procedures is a practical example of a modernisation effort, which has proven highly useful for airBaltic’s operational efficiency. airBaltic’s E-GEN project (“EGNOS Enabled – North”) entailed an upgrade of the full airBaltic Q400 fleet with the latest satellite navigation systems. The project was implemented together with the European GNSS Agency (GSA), which co-financed it. The upgrade enabled the implementation of satellite-based navigation, specifically for use of LPV approaches/for landing by LPV (Localiser Performance with Vertical guidance), which ensures horizontal and vertical guidance based on EGNOS geo-stationary satellites providing navigation signal improvements for the GPS navigation service. The implementation of satellite-based navigation required a comprehensive, step-by-step process, which involved a number of different divisions of our airline operations. It encompassed fleet aircraft replacement decisions, approvals from authorities, implementation of new operational procedures, retrofit of technical hardware and crew training.
Prior to the E-GEN project, did you have any experience of EGNOS implementation?
We had previous experience on a smaller scale with our AMBER project, but E-GEN was significantly more complex. Therefore the timing and project planning for the E-GEN project was critical. It was planned by creating a full business implementation schedule. Before the actual implementation, we carefully analysed the satellite navigation technology and performed a demonstration study, to provide solid justification for the required investment. During the E-GEN project, we carefully followed the project plan and gradually implemented the procedures into everyday line operations. It also served as a stepping stone for the introduction of our brand new Airbus A220 fleet into service. This state-of-the-art airliner already has LPV and other satellite navigation capabilities built in and ready for use from the very beginning.
How has EGNOS helped you to improve your environmental performance?
We value the reduced environmental impact. The increased efficiency directly translates into improved environmental performance and reduced impact. But airBaltic also views LPV approaches as an important incremental improvement in the safety of air transportation by leveraging advanced flight-deck procedures and the increased automation of aircraft. Also, the benefit in terms of economic efficiency is significant because it permits more reliable operations by minimising the possibility of diversions. This is a win-win for both passengers and the airline.
What form did your cooperation with the GSA take on this project, and how has the experience been?
Cooperation with GSA has been an important enabler for the project. The project is co-financed by the European GNSS Agency via the grant program “Acceleration of EGNOS adoption in the field of civil aviation”. The co-financing made all the difference by turning the investment into a positive business case. Also, GSA, with its oversight role on EU satellite navigation activities, was perfectly placed to provide the best available knowledge on system performance and helped with a wide range of practical questions.
Now that the project has concluded, what are your plans for the future as regards ‘green flying’ and EGNOS implementation?
The project has already provided a positive contribution to the European aviation industry. Prior to our E-GEN project there were no EASA approved STC (supplemental type certificates) available for the Q400 aircraft type. Now, thanks to E-GEN, this certification is available to all Q400 operators. Several European airlines are already following the path we created.
Since the implementation of the project, airBaltic has already performed more than 500 LPV approaches across European airports, which would not have happened otherwise. So the project is delivering real results with real benefits. Following this development, we will make over 5000 LPV approaches on our Q400 fleet alone. When combined with the satellite-based approaches conducted by our A220 operations, airBaltic is proud to be truly one of the future navigation pioneers in Europe.