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Check mates

Posted 5 March 2020 · Add Comment

The international airports in the Middle East are some of the busiest in the world. They are also equipped with the most sophisticated navigation aids that have to remain operational 24/7 – but they also need to be totally accurate. David Oliver finds out more.

For many countries in the region, the maintenance of sophisticated international airport systems is the responsibility of the UK-based Flight Calibration Services Ltd (FCSL).
Headquartered at Shoreham Airport, it is Europe’s only privately owned and fully independent flight calibration service.
FCSL provides flight calibration/inspection/validation/checking for the full range of aircraft radio navigation aids, including instrument landing systems (ILS) to Cat III and primary/secondary radar systems, with minimum disruptions to airfield and aircraft operations.
It is both a flight inspection service provider and a flight inspection system (FIS) manufacturer.
Significant cost-savings have been achieved by using its small, lightweight airborne equipment with a high level of automation, which reduces manpower and enables the use of smaller aircraft with lower operating and modification costs.
In November 2018, FCSL took delivery of its fifth DA 62 Diamond aircraft, in addition to two Piper Chieftain aircraft, with sufficient aircrew and equipment to operate the aircraft simultaneously. This is the largest fleet of twin-engine flight calibration aircraft in private ownership.
The twin-engine 5/7-seat DA 62 is powered by two standard 134kW (180hp) AE330 diesel engines, manufactured by Diamond Aircraft’s subsidiary, Austro Engines, with duel-channel full authority digital engine control (FADEC) and a single lever operation electronic engine controller unit (EECU).
Flown at 80% power with an average ground speed of 315km/h (170kt), the DA 62 burns only 15 US gal/hr. Holding station at 185km/hr (100kt) this reduces to less than nine US gal/hr.
With a maximum speed of 352km/h (190kt) and service ceiling of 6,100 metres (20,000ft) it has exceptional range and endurance and is capable of flying up to 10-hour non-stop missions.
The DA 62 has excellent low-speed handling and is stable flying at 85kts, making it ideal for low-and-slow calibration check flights.
The FCLS aircraft are normally crewed by two pilots, a calibration engineer and an observer.
The aircraft has a payload of up to 710kg (1,565lb) for crew, mission equipment and fuel, while the field-proven composite construction technology allows corrosion-free unlimited airframe lifetime.
The production DA 62 is equipped with Garmin G1000Nxi avionics, with fully integrated three-axis GFC700 autopilot. With 10-inch primary flight and multifunction displays, G1000Nxi incorporates features such as wireless cockpit connectivity, including wireless database updates using Garmin Flight Stream, enhanced situational awareness with SurfaceWatch, visual approaches, and map overlay on the horizontal situation indicator (HIS).
FCSL’s Diamond DA 62 aircraft are fitted with 28 antennas to provide flight inspection services.
Unfortunately, one the company’s DA 62 aircraft was lost on May 16 this year while carrying out aerodrome ground lighting calibration checks at Dubai International Airport. The cause is still under investigation, although the initial indications point toward wake turbulence being a factor in the accident.
FCLS’s automatic flight inspection system (AFIS) comprises a small lightweight unit housing the specialist navigation aid receivers, GPS receiver, data collection computer, telemetry transceiver and an operator laptop. It also includes a separate pilot’s head-up display (HUD) to assist with guidance and awareness.
The AFIS equipment uses its own satellite-based augmentation system (SBAS) to determine the aircraft’s position in space within 20mm accuracy, and to ensure accurate and repeatable results.
The head-up guidance display provides the pilots with situational awareness and accurate guidance during the inspection runs.
Each profile run is preprogramed into the system and can be selected by either the flight inspector or the pilot using the touchscreen interface. The laptop computer provides the flight inspector with all the real-time inspection and positioning data. The flight inspection software runs in a user-friendly Windows environment, using multifunction facilities, with the data presented in a clear and precise graphical format.
FCSL also provides a mobile AFIS that is capable of easy installation on locally based light or medium-size aircraft. This is a flexible solution for commissioning and maintaining navigation aids at airports in remote locations, where the cost of deploying a dedicated flight-check aircraft is not economical.
The compact lightweight design enables the equipment and crew to be deployed worldwide at short notice by commercial airlines. The mobile AFIS does not require any structural changes to the aircraft’s airframe or any additional antennas to be fitted.
A compact, lightweight, automated precision reference system (PRS) unit provides differential global positioning system (DGPS) corrections to the aircraft to enable the AFIS airborne equipment to fix its position in space (within plus-or-minus 20mm). DGPS correction data is sent to the airborne flight inspection system via a dedicated telemetry link. Guidance information and inspection analysis is then provided to the pilot in real-time.
Two Diamond DA 62s are permanently based at Dubai International Airport to eliminate the time and cost of positioning aircraft to and from Europe. This strategic decision has enabled FCSL to provide improved service availability with a full back-up capability for the Middle East region.
In December 2016 the UAE’s Sharjah Airport Authority signed a long-term contract with FCSL to provide periodic instrument landing system/ distance measuring equipment (ILS/DME), Doppler VHF omni directional range/DME (DVOR/DME) and airfield ground lighting (AGL) flight inspection services.
This is in addition to ILS/DME and DVOR/DME scheduled inspections at eight other UAE airports, including Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Al Ain, and Fujairah International.
FCLS has service contracts for periodic inspection of six ILS/DME and two DVOR/DME at Qatar’s Hamad and Doha International Airports. In addition, it provides area navigation/global navigation satellite systems (RNAV/GNSS) procedure validation and obstacle assessment for Hamad International Airport.
The company has a two-year contract for three airports in Oman, including Muscat International and Sallalah Airports, and en-route aids. Plus it has a three-year service contract for ILS, DVOR, precision approach path indicators (PAPI) and runway lighting at Jordan’s Queen Alia International, Amman Marka and Aqaba Airports.
En-route aids and navigation aids are serviced at 14 Egyptian airports, including Cairo, Alexandria and Sharm El Sheikh Airports, while FCLS has a service contract with Morocco to provide commissioning flight checks on five VOR systems and a three-year contract with Kuwait for the periodic flight check of four ILS and two DVOR/DME equipment systems.
In June 2017, FCSL signed a contract in Morocco to provide commissioning flight checks on five DVOR systems, and a long-term contract with Kuwait International Airport for the periodic flight check of four ILS and two DVOR/DME systems. In September 2017, it signed contracts for the commissioning of a new ILS at Shabitah and Zaabaloten Airports for the Saudi Border Guard.
The company also has a five-year contract for ILS/DME&DVOR/DME scheduled inspections at Malta International Airport and Gozo.
FCLS has had a contract with Libya to check en-route aids and 11 airports, including recent ILS Cat II commissioned at Tripoli and Benghazi Airports. However, due to the recent escalation in Libya’s civil war, many of its airports have been closed to civilian air travel, making it difficult for FCLS to service these contracts at the present time.
In May 2019, FCSL was awarded the UK’s prestigious ‘Queen’s Award for Enterprise: International Trade 2019’ in recognition of the significant growth in export orders achieved over the last three years.
This was its second Queen’s award in three years, which reflects it success overseas, having been built on the back of experience gained in the UK, where FCSL is established as the main flight inspection service provider.
 

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