Helping keep vital navigation aids operational during COVID-19

Airplane flying over antenna

Throughout the pandemic the EUROCONTROL Network Manager (NM) has been working closely with all operational stakeholders to plan carefully all aspects of a coordinated recovery – including ensuring the full operationality of ground-based Communication, Navigation and Surveillance (CNS) infrastructure, the navigation infrastructure that permits air carriers to conduct safe and reliable operations no matter what the weather conditions are.

Terrestrial navigation aids (NAVAIDS) such as Instrument Landing System (ILS), Distance Measuring Equipment (DME) or VHF Omnidirectional Range (VOR) continue to play an important role in navigation alongside GPS satellite navigation. To ensure terrestrial NAVAIDS continue to emit safe and high-quality signals which are essential to smooth and safe operations across the EUROCONTROL network and beyond, regular flight inspections by calibration aircraft are required.

However, the pandemic has made regular inspections of NAVAIDs more problematic for many States, with flight inspection providers having to adapt to non-rotating crews, returning to their home base after each inspection, and applying a variety of mitigating health and safety measures. To help, EUROCONTROL supported ICAO right at the start of the pandemic in publishing a Quick Reference Guide on the Periodicity of flight inspection of radio navigation aids which guides States on how to maintain inspection intervals of terrestrial NAVAIDS, or extend them safely.

Together with 300+ global CNS experts, we reviewed the situation and latest developments later in the year at an ICAO Webinar that we co-hosted, where we assessed NAVAID flight inspection status together with the ICAO Europe and Middle East Regions. The webinar underlined the ongoing need to ensure NAVAIDs remain operational – a particular issue for some smaller countries that rely on outsourced flight inspection providers from other countries.

In 2021, work on CNS and NAVAIDS will continue, with the EUROCONTROL NM continuing to work with operational stakeholders on ways of maintaining and improving the European CNS infrastructure, looking in particular at ways of ‘greening’, modernising and evolving CNS across the network.

Interested in our CNS activities?

Learn more on our Communications, Navigation and Surveillance page.