Airbus is continuing to invest in the A320 Family, which includes providing the capability for these single-aisle aircraft to operate with the newest airport approach and precision landing systems.
The Microwave Landing System (MLS) can increase airport capacity and also provide for highly precise approaches in poor weather conditions. It is less susceptible to interference from buildings or other aircraft nearby than the traditional Instrument Landing System (ILS), thanks to use of microwave signals.
Approval for Category IIIb MLS landing operations was received from aviation authorities in November 2007, meaning this system is now certified for precision approaches and landings in very low visibility, and with shorter landing intervals than the traditional system. The MLS has now entered service with British Airways at London's Heathrow Airport, and this airline is the first Airbus customer to adopt the system - working closely on its development and the retrofit of the carrierâ€™s single-aisle Airbus fleet.
The next evolution of precision landing technologies currently undergoing trials for Airbus aircraft is the GPS Landing System (GLS), based around global satellite positioning technology. While ILS requires extensive ground-based infrastructure and MLS relies on ground-based stations, GLS could cover an entire airport with a single ground station.
Since it will require less infrastructure, GLS will be more cost-effective for airports and can deliver valuable time and fuel savings for airlines due to the ability for aircraft to fly shorter procedures. GLS is currently being certified for use on the A380, and Qantas will be the first operator to use the system with the delivery of its first A380 later this year. For A320 family aircraft, the first step is due later this year with Category 1 certification, aiming for a full Category IIIb certification in the coming years.