On 10 March 2011, Zurich Airport was the first airport in Switzerland to introduce satellite-based landing. This advanced approach procedure uses GPS technology to guide aircraft on to runway 14 from the north.
While the technology is changing, the flight routes will remain the same and the aeroplanes will continue to follow the existing flight paths. This procedure is also known as „overlay“.
As part of the current instrument landing system (ILS) procedure, a ground station sends out one horizontal and one vertical radio beam to guide aircraft onto the runway, even in bad visibility. This requires aircraft to be established for at least the last ten kilometres of their final approach. The instrument landing system will remain in operation and will still be used for the majority of approaches.
In contrast, the new procedure is based on GPS technology and – similar to the navigation system in a car – uses satellites to determine an exact position. Aircraft thus follow a series of fixed 3D waypoints. GPS technology allows for more flexible approach routes which may also include turns. Unlike navigation systems in cars, the safety requirement of a landing navigation system must be much more precise and reliable, which is why it has taken many years for this technology to be introduced.
On 18 October 2012, the airport operator and Skyguide initiated a satellite-based take-off on runway 34. This is the first time that a take-off procedure has been used in Switzerland which specifies a turn radius for the turning segment. In principle, the new satellite-based take-off route is the same as the existing take-off route. However, the new take-off procedure promises more precise routing, and consequently less track dispersion in the turning segment. Which technology is used for take-offs from runway 34 depends on the aircraft instrumentation and is ultimately up to the pilot to decide.
Ground Based Augmentation System (GBAS)
The ground-based augmentation system (GBAS), which will be installed on the airport site, will increase the accuracy of the GPS signal so that aircraft with the appropriate equipment will be able to use the GPS technology to land even in low cloud or when visibility is poor.
The ground station will meet the technical requirements for introducing further environmentally and noise-optimised procedures in future, such as continuous descent approaches (CDA).
Beginning in autumn 2014 the first landings will take place as part of a one-year monitoring phase; once this phase has been concluded, the facility will be approved for regular operations.
SESAR – Restructuring of air traffic in Europe
The „SESAR“ (Single European Sky Air Traffic Management Research) project has been set up to ensure that air traffic in Europe remains safe, efficient, economical and as environmentally friendly as possible.
SESAR represents one of the four pillars of the Single European Sky Initiative. Single European Sky is intended to create a common European airspace independent of national borders. Between now and 2020, SESAR will be developing innovative processes and systems, and ensuring that relevant research and development projects are coordinated and bundled.
Responsibility for the future of air traffic
The SESAR project sees representatives of European airport operators, air traffic controllers, aircraft manufacturers, airlines and system manufacturers working together on behalf of the aviation industry. The objective is to optimise the entire air traffic process chain. Flughafen Zürich AG is also involved in SESAR, proactively taking responsibility for the future of European air traffic. It is working with Fraport, BAA, Schiphol Group (Amsterdam), Aéroports de Paris and Flughafen München GmbH.