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A 737 Landing in Bremen: What’s the Big Deal?

Air Berlin landed a 737 in Bremen, Germany last week, reports Air Transport World. Why is that news? Because it was the first successful plane landing using a satellite-based landing system, as assisted by a ground-based augmentation system (GBAS).

This is a very big deal, since satellite technology in conjunction with GBAS is both more precise and much cheaper to deploy than the old-technology instrument landing system (ILS) that is now the standard for landings in most of the world. The Air Berlin plane is approved to land when runway forward visibility is down to 1,800 feet (about one third of a mile).

How will this affect those of us in the U.S.? The new system opens the door for improved all-weather landings just about everywhere, and it will especially benefit small airports that can’t afford to install ILS. Presumably, satellite-GBAS can and will be part of the Department of Transportation’s “Next Gen” air navigation system, which Congress recently renewed for four years. Improvements won’t come overnight, but this new technology could be a huge benefit to the traveling public. Stay tuned for developments.

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