GNSS Approaches in the British Isles – Status

Page last updated 22 March 2023.

The UK is still behind the curve when it comes to establishing GNSS-based* (using the U.S. GPS system mainly) approaches at various airfields and airports. Many countries have ‘RNP’ or ‘RNAV’ approaches at most airports and airfields, although some have next to none. The U.S. and France have many.

After a good start in 2008 in the UK with the Shoreham non-precision GPS approach, this was followed by Gloucester, Exeter and Blackpool and a few others (in no particular order). Alderney LPV approaches were established in December 2011, making it the first ‘precision’ (equivalent to an ILS as it gives glideslope) approach in the British Isles, and a further 44 reportedly followed (around 75 ‘runway ends’) – we have now checked these numbers against the UK AIP, and there are in fact 35 airports with at least one RNP approach (36 since on the day of writing this we were informed Sherburn-in-Elmet was given approval for RNP approaches at both ends of its Runway 10-28).

You can see the full list/survey of approaches in the British Isles by clicking this link:

This has confirmed that the situation has left many airfields without any GPS approaches (in fact no instrument approach procedures (IAPs) at all – one of the promises is GNSS (or RNP) approaches would be cheaper and easier to establish and maintain than ILSs).

Note the Channel Islands LPV approaches are still available despite Brexit and the UK losing access to EGNOS, because the Channel Islands is technically in French airspace! Other than that, for now the British Isles can’t benefit from the lower minima offered by LPV, and at best can get those offered by RNAV/VNAV (GPS with barometric altitude for judging glideslope).

Many years later even the initiative outlined by the CAA (‘GNSS Rollout Programme‘) had stalled resulting in this CAA ‘apology’, reported by the APPG for General Aviation at the time.

In March 2022 the CAA defined its new approach to the establishment of new approaches in CAP 2304.

The historical and latest situation on airfields which have managed to get the Airspace Change Proposal (ACP) approved for approaches can be found HERE.

An update from Paul Fraser-Bennison, Director of Merlin Aviation Consulting (which is working on the new GPS approach programme) on 22 March 2023 gave the following information:

  • Leeds East RNP 06/24 should have been approved today but delayed due minor tree infringement issue so next month…
  • Sywell RNP 03/21 was the first in 2019 but lost them due Covid lockdown. New application in now so hopefully before the end of the year for re-establishment.
  • Cumbernauld 25 RNP at Step 3 with completion expected before end of the year.
  • Haverfordwest RNP 03/21 nearly complete.
  • Stapleford RNP 21L slow progress.
  • Denham RNP 24 temporarily paused [Denham is very close to the HS2 development, something GAAC has been involved with in terms of its impact on Denham].
  • *GNSS = Global Navigation Satellite System, of which there are now several around the world – started with the U.S. ‘Navstar’ Global Positioning System (GPS) and has now been joined by Glonass (Russia), Galileo (Europe) and several others – many receivers can use satellites from more than one system.
  • EGNOS = European Geostationary Navigation Overlay System (3 satellites and 30 groundstations providing ‘corrections’ to receivers to allow great accuracy – in the U.S. the system is WAAS).
  • LPV = Localiser Performance with Vertical Guidance [effectively equivalent to ILS CAT I].
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