Alex Bristol unveils skyguide’s innovative satellite-based navigation solutions

Alex Bristol, Chief Operating Officer of skyguide – the Swiss air navigation services provider – unveils the company’s innovative satellite-based navigation solutions…

Part of skyguide’s mission is to serve airports. When they are faced with operational limitations, skyguide works together with its customers to overcome them. And today, airports are facing a major challenge: to increase the punctuality of flights while maintaining the highest possible levels of safety, all within a highly regulated and politically sensitive environment.

Simply increasing ground capacity and improving infrastructure does not provide an effective solution. Rather, multiple factors need to be addressed to achieve these objectives. Maintaining or improving punctuality performance does not only rely on ground infrastructure, but also on the design and management of the airspace and the efficiency of the information flow between the airport and air traffic control. As Alex Bristol explains, the more crucial aspects are the efficient management of slots and the quality of the dynamic decisions taken on a day-to-day basis.

Satellite-based navigation appears to be a good solution, but exactly how does it contribute to solving these problems?

Well, I can actually provide you with a recent example. At Zurich Airport, in October 2014, skyguide implemented a state of the art precision satellite navigation system using a ground based augmentation system (GBAS) on runway 14. This single piece of ground equipment will subsequently be able to facilitate approaches on all the runway ends at the airport.

In addition to improving navigation accuracy and providing aeronautical information with integrity to equipped aircraft, it reduces the restrictions imposed by instrument landing systems (ILS), e.g. the localiser-sensitive area. This directly translates into increased runway capacity, and therefore increased punctuality (especially in low visibility procedures). A GBAS also enables more flexibility in terms of airspace design, which creates the potential for increased airspace capacity (e.g. by allowing more approaches than just ‘straight-in’). And last but not least, it results in significant cost savings, as a single piece of equipment allows multi-runway operations, so significant economies of scale can be achieved. Another benefit of satellite navigation systems is that they can also serve as redundancy systems, and thus increase the robustness of operations.

How much experience does skyguide have in implementing such systems, and what benefits has it brought?

Skyguide has been a pioneer in this field since 2007. We have introduced instrument flight procedures based on satellite navigation (GBAS and SBAS) in many regional airports in Switzerland and Sweden (including Dübendorf, Saint-Gallen, Berne, Les Eplatures, Trollhättan, Västerås and Ljungbyhed). The implementation of this technology is just as relevant to small airports as for large ones. For instance, at Dübendorf airport the implementation of a curved approach has increased operational efficiency by significantly reducing track miles, thereby permitting fuel savings and a reduction in costs and environmental impact. At the Swiss and Swedish airports, SBAS technology has also reduced costs by avoiding the necessity to replace their ILS.

Innovation seems to be part of skyguide’s DNA! Could you tell us more about skyguide’s philosophy and approach in this respect?

At skyguide, we don’t just think differently – we make it happen! It’s unusual to find a partner that not only fosters innovation, but also implements the results. skyguide’s value comes from end-to-end thinking. Innovation is not just about technology: it is also about creating benefits for all the air transport industry stakeholders – airlines, airports, air navigation service providers, passengers and local communities. At skyguide, we are committed to creating tomorrow’s air traffic management system for the global aviation industry.

To learn more about the products and services that skyguide can deliver to you – such as capacity analysis, safety analysis, airspace and procedure design based on satellite navigation, consultancy, technical equipment testing, validation and implementation – visit skyguide solutions’ webpage at .


Alex Bristol, COO of skyguide, has a profound knowledge of aviation, with more than 20 years of experience in air traffic management. Alex began his career in the United Kingdom in 1992, and went on to serve as an air traffic controller, instructor and supervisor at London’s Heathrow Airport. From 2003 onwards, he was successively appointed General Manager of Operations at Farnborough, Manchester, West Drayton and Swanwick. Alex joined skyguide as COO in 2011.

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