European helicopter industry endeavors to improve air traffic management

In the framework of Europe’s Sesar research project in air traffic management, flight tests are taking place to better integrate helicopters in airport traffic.

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In November and then in February next year, the Italian air navigation service provider, Enav, will lead trials with an unspecified Leonardo helicopter for “simultaneous non-interfering” (SNI) operations at Milano Malpensa airport. The challenge lies in the introduction of rotorcraft instrument flight rules (IFR) procedures at a busy airport, said an Enav representative. Such rotorcraft operations should not interfere with the existing traffic or with fixed-wing aircraft procedures.

The key aspect is the “point in space” (PinS) concept, which enables the helicopter approach to be targeted at something other than a runway. As the helicopter flies directly to the PinS and does not use the runway, its presence does not impact the airport’s capacity. The concept also makes helicopter movements more fuel-efficient and increases safety, according to its promoters.

The European Helicopter Association has been involved in the evaluations. A first phase, using simulators, was split between April and June 2018.

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Another PinS and SNI test campaign, led by Airbus Helicopters, was scheduled to start this month with a curved approach at Braunschweig Wolfsburg airport and Donauwörth heliport. It is to include assessments with an autopilot and a helmet-mounted display. Thales and DLR – in addition to Airbus – are supplying test pilots.

Progress has been slow, however. The SNI and PinS notions have yet to be implemented, despite Airbus having promoted them for at least a decade.

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