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Loganair presses for restoration of access to ‘aviation sat-nav’

A cross-party group of MPs and regional airlines including Loganair are calling for the UK to re-join a satellite-based aviation navigation system.

The UK has been the only G20 country without a precision satellite-based navigation system since withdrawing from the EGNOS programme a year ago.

This had led to more frequent flight cancellations and delays in poor weather conditions than ever before across the country’s most remote air links such as Shetland and the Isles of Scilly.

A new report by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on General Aviation sets out the economic and safety benefits of the system.

The report, by consultants Oxera, indicates that the cost of UK participation will be £27-£29 million annually. It also points to the benefits for aviation safety and life-dependent services such as air ambulance flights, where it is understood that ability to safely land in Scottish island airports on flights critical to life has been impaired by the UK’s withdrawal from EGNOS.

It highlights that disruption to more than 100,000 journeys each year could be avoided and that for every £1 spent on EGNOS participation, the UK economy would stand to benefit by £2.60.

The figures are based on last year’s data and do not take account of Loganair’s fleet renewal in which new ATR turboprop aircraft – equipped to use the satellite system – carry an increasing proportion of its passengers.

The airline contends that actual benefits of renewed participation in the EGNOS programme will therefore be higher.

The publication of the report prompted Loganair to press transport secretary Grant Shapps and business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng for restoration of UK access to the system.

Chief executive Jonathan Hinkles said:“In the last year, we’ve seen weather cancellations on routes such as those to Tiree and Barra double in the absence of the EGNOS satellite capability – inconveniencing customers, leading to more aborted flights and wasted carbon emissions, and setting back the government’s objectives for union connectivity and ‘Levelling Up’ by impairing transport links to some of our most dependent island communities.”

In his letter to ministers,Hinkles said:“Our pilots are trained to continually re-evaluate every step and decision in the conduct of every flight, to avoid the phenomenon known as ‘press-on-itus’ – slavishly sticking by a decision even though developing circumstances clearly mandate a re-think. This is a government decision which would benefit from such a re-evaluation.”

The letter highlights that the development of any “home-grown” UK alternative to EGNOS is many years away and encourages the secretaries of state to renew UK participation in the scheme.

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