New technologies to support all-weather operations

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency  published a proposal to update the regulatory framework applicable to all-weather operations (AWOs) and flight crew training to allow the application of latest technological advancements.

aerobernie easa european union aviation safety agency
EASA proposes use of new technologies to support all-weather operations

This proposal would increase the number of medium-sized aerodromes which are accessible for flight operations.

The concept of all-weather operations refers to the ability of aircraft to take off and land in an airport under low visibility conditions. In such circumstances, technological support can ensure safe operations in situations that would otherwise pose safety challenges. While large aerodromes are, for the most part, already equipped for such operations, medium-size or regional airports had typically so far been unable to afford the investment required. 

“This Opinion is innovative in certifying the use of technologies that are already available to increase safety, while at the same time broadening the commercial network by increasing the accessibility to medium-size airports and bringing environmental and cost advantages by reducing the number of diversions due to poor visibility,” said EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky.  “It takes a performance and risk-based approach to increase safety in a cost-effective way, taking advantage of technological innovations.” 

The Opinion allows for better integration and use of new, advanced technology as well as new operational procedures to support AWOs. The rules are not technology-dependent and may accommodate future changes.

They ensure the availability of aerodrome infrastructure (including meteorological equipment), information and procedures and allow for the use of enhanced flight vision systems (EFVS) to the maximum extent possible (e.g. EFVS to land). They also allow for ‘light operational credits’ for EFVS 200 operations which do require the use of specific approvals, therefore reducing the administrative burdens. 

In addition, they allow for safe helicopter flights under instrument flight rules (IFR), using point-in-space (PinS) approaches and departures. 

The ability to conduct all-weather operations at an aerodrome is an important factor in network planning for commercial airlines. Aerodromes that cannot support this have an additional cost and risk attached: the aircraft may need to carry additional fuel to allow for a safe diversion if needed; and such diversions are of course also unpopular with passengers, who may land at an airport some distance from their intended destination.

An approach in marginal conditions which has to be aborted (go-around) is costly in terms of fuel, which is bad financially and also for the environment. 

For these reasons, an airline is more likely to offer services to an airport which can support all-weather operations. This in turn can be good for the local region, in increasing its connectivity. 

As regards flight crew training, this proposal improves the existing crew training and checking requirements for air operators. It addresses initial and recurrent training and checking, as well as the conditions for operation on more than one aircraft type or variant, the acceptance of previous training and checking by non-commercial operators, and multi-pilot operations of single-pilot certified helicopters.

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