Over 200 UK pilots have stepped forward to participate in a ground-breaking initiative called GAINS (General Aviation Improvements in Navigation and Surveillance), funded by the SESAR 2020 programme and project-managed by Helios. This level of interest confirms what we have long suspected, the GA community (both fixed wing and rotorcraft) is keen to be involved in the advancement of aviation and prepared to embrace change where clear benefits can be demonstrated.
The project aims to demonstrate, through live flying exercises, the ability of GA to also benefit from technical solutions developed by SESAR that lead to better integration of GA within the airspace. The focus of GAINS is on new surveillance technology and navigation procedures not yet approved for the GA community. It's a complex project, involving AOPA the UK aircraft owners and pilots association, selected UK aerodromes, European aviation regulators and ANSPs, equipment specialists from the UK and Germany, and aerospace engineers from Spain.
The project involves extensive consultation and detailed planning, which is still ongoing. The good news is that the first surveillance demonstration already took place in Stapleford and more will follow, in the airfields of, Duxford and Sywell and most likely also Brimpton and Dundee. All activities will be undertaken in VMC under VFR with safety pilot. The idea is to test whether situational awareness is enhanced by using equipment that displays the positions of other aircraft (electronic conspicuity or "EC") in a busy airfield circuit. Portable cockpit EC equipment will be provided by Funke and Trig (or existing equipment can be used). Compatible ground equipment will display the participating aircraft positions in the tower as a visual aid.
Navigation demonstrations will take place through 2019 at Duxford and Sywell (an ILS airfield may follow). They will involve accurately flying a number of instrument approach procedures tailored for typical GA flight characteristics. An instrument qualification (including IMC rating/ IR(R)) will be necessary for pilots. In addition, aircraft will be participating under a Permit to Fly as uncertified avionics capabilities will need to be enabled for the trial. The navigation element will be flown as simulated instrument flight (i.e. under the hood or with foggles).
Pilots have provided information on their qualifications, experience, aircraft and equipage. That data is now being analysed with pilots being contacted where additional information is needed. It will lead to a broad range of pilot and aircraft capabilities being invited to participate in the demonstrations. However, the door is not yet closed to other UK pilots wanting to take part, with the profiling survey still open. Given the high interest shown by the community, GAINS is looking to involve as many participants as possible.
The project is only just moving out of the preparatory phases. It is due to conclude at the end of 2019. But the whole team is really encouraged by the support from the GA community and participating airfields and from the SESAR Joint Undertaking, roll on the New Year!