Cambridge Airport is harnessing exceptionally accurate GPS technology to help pilots navigate its runway in the worst of weather.GPS technology is taken for granted in the automotive industry and even by hikers and climbers but aviation in the UK and much of Europe has been a slow adopter of what originated as military technology.
Marshall has GPS-enabled its airfield approach from both ends of the runway to banish the need for expensive radio-controlled equipment. The Airport, owned by Marshall of Cambridge, has now established itself as a European-leading pilot training centre for the new navigation aid.
British Airways is already using Cambridge Airport for pilot training and airport director, Archie Garden, believes other airlines will follow suit.
He also expects an upsurge in traffic from the United States where the APV Baro RNAV Instrument approach procedure – known colloquially as a GPS Approach – is more commonplace.
It costs airlines a fair amount to install the technology on its planes but the safety payback is regarded as enormous.
In fact, the GPS Approach technology is regarded as so important that the Civil Aviation Authority worked with Cambridge Airport to fast-track certification.
While the scheme has been in the hatching process for three years, the technology was customised by the airport so expertly that it went from original design to flight testing and implementation in just three months, said Garden.
He said the pilot interpreted navigation aid provided an extremely accurate airfield approach in all weather conditions.
Cambridge Airport is one of the first in the UK to introduce the procedure to supplement its existing SRA/ILS/NDB and modifiable PAPI facilities. The approach has been validated for its principal runways, 23 and 05.
Cambridge is now one of the few airports in the UK that can offer the complete spectrum of commercial pilot training capabilities outside of the major London Airports.
The airport is regularly used by military aircraft, commercial aircraft up to Boeing 757 or Airbus320 capacity, as well as business and general aviation and the instrument approach system can now be utilised by all aircraft with the relevant certification.
The capability is likely to see even more aircraft in future diverted to Cambridge in bad weather. Garden said: “This new facility will provide easier access in all weather conditions. We are already recognised as being a real alternative airport for the London region and as the East of England aviation hub. This is just another milestone in our ongoing strategy of infrastructure development.
“We are very grateful for the superb support received from the CAA during the certification process, which was completed in a record time for such a new facility.”
The system further strengthens the expanding training offering at the airport and coincides with the installation of a B737 simulator from tenants The Pilot Training College.
Captain Tony Kember of the College said: “The implementation of this procedure provides PTC with the opportunity to train our students using the very latest equipment and apply the techniques that are required for professional airline pilots flying modern technically advanced aircraft.
“As PTC develops the Professional Pilot Training College at Cambridge Airport this instrument approach facility will broaden the experience and knowledge of our graduates and further help ensure safety in aviation.”