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GROUNDOPS

T
he flight crew was in for a surprise. (FAA) in April to issue a notice to fluctuations are likely caused by move-
They had established their large remind operators of the potential for ment through the ILS critical area or an
air carrier aircraft on the localizer erroneous glideslope and/or localizer actual equipment malfunction.
during a coupled instrument land- indications caused by movement of
ing system (ILS) approach to Chicago aircraft or equipment through ILS Partial Protection
OHare International Airports Runway critical areas.2 Most ILS installations are subject
28 and were awaiting glideslope inter- The notice said that there had been to signal interference by surface
ception when their glideslope course several recent reports by pilots and air vehicles, aircraft or both, the AIM says.
deviation indicators (CDIs) abruptly traffic controllers about fluctuations of ILS critical areas are established near
moved from the full-up position to full- glideslope and/or localizer indications in each localizer and glideslope antenna.
down. The airplane pitched nose-down aircraft on ILS approaches. This well- The localizer antenna is located be-
and descended 100 ft before the pilot known phenomenon may occur when yond the departure end of the runway;
flying disengaged the autopilot and hand aircraft or vehicles are moving through the glideslope antenna is off the side of
flew the airplane back to the appropri- the ILS localizer and/or glideslope criti- the runway, close to the approach end.
ate altitude. While leveling, I saw the cal areas and is due to interference with The dimensions of their designated
glideslope indicator go back to the cor- the ILS signals, the notice said, adding critical areas vary according to such
rect indication of full-up, the pilot said.1 that in several of the reported incidents, factors as the size of the aircraft that
The anomaly likely was caused by pilots were conducting coupled ap- operate at the airport.3
disruption of the glideslope signal by a proaches, and the autopilots tracked the ILS critical areas are protected by
large cargo aircraft holding for takeoff distorted ILS signals, causing excessive airport traffic controllers only under
on Runway 28. Tower personnel told pitch and roll excursions. the specific conditions spelled out in
the crew that, because of the weather The notice recommended that the AIM. Chief among them is that vis-
conditions 2 1/2 mi (4,000 m) vis- pilots review the guidance contained in ibility must be less than 2 mi (3,200 m)
ibility in snow and a 1,500-ft overcast the Aeronautical Information Manual or the ceiling must be lower than 800 ft.
ceiling they were not required to (AIM) and be continually aware of Another key factor is that critical areas
protect the ILS critical area. the conditions under which [localizer/ are protected only when an arriving air-
Incidents like this prompted the glideslope] critical area protections are craft has crossed the ILS outer marker
U.S. Federal Aviation Administration imposed and whether or not the ILS or final approach fix (FAF).

Taxiway

Localizer critical area

Localizer antenna Instrument landing system runway

Crossed Signals
Entering an ILS critical area can cause problems for aircraft on approach.
BY MARK LACAGNINA

20 | flight safety foundation | AeroSafetyWorld | July 2012


GROUNDOPs

Protection might consist of a As noted in the AIM, vehicles also while the CDIs show on-course indica-
ground controller telling a crew taxiing can disrupt ILS signals. The pilots of tions with no warning flags.6
an aircraft to the runway to hold short a twin-turboprop business airplane Erroneous localizer and glideslope
of the ILS critical area.4 The holding found this to be true while conducting signals also may be radiated during
position is designated by markings (two a hand-flown approach to the uncon- maintenance or testing of the ILS
yellow lines spanning the taxiway and trolled airport in Barre-Montpelier, ground equipment, which usually is
enclosing pairs of perpendicular yellow Vermont. They reported spurious and brought to pilots attention by no-
lines) and an adjacent sign (ILS in random oscillations of the localizer tices to airmen (NOTAMs) and/or by
white on a red background). CDI, with half-scale deflections removing the Morse code identifica-
When visibility is less than 2 mi, occurring about five times.5 After tion normally transmitted on the ILS
the ceiling is lower than 800 ft and an landing, we observed a large tractor- frequency.
aircraft is inside the FAF, critical areas style mower cutting grass at the far
might not be protected against aircraft end of the runway, in the vicinity of Notes
that have landed and are exiting the the localizer antenna array, the pilot 1. U.S. National Aeronautics and Space
runway, or are on a missed approach monitoring said. We surmised that Administration Aviation Safety Reporting
or departure. Controllers are required the movement of the mower through System (ASRS) report no. 871505,
to keep critical areas clear of such this area might have accounted for the January 2010.
operations only when runway visual erratic behavior of the localizer signal 2. FAA Information for Operators (InFO)
range (RVR) is 2,000 ft (600 m) or less, during our approach. 12007, April 26, 2012.
or the ceiling is less than 200 ft, and
3. FAA Order 6750.16D, Siting Criteria for
the arriving aircraft is inside the ILS False Courses
Instrument Landing Systems.
middle marker. The AIM also warns of false courses
4. FAA Order 7110.65U, Air Traffic Control.
At uncontrolled airports, there is no generated outside the ILS service area
protection of ILS critical areas. The AIM as a normal byproduct of ILS signal 5. ASRS report no. 837437, May 2009.
recommends that pilots be especially alert generation. Depending on the ILS in-
6. FSF editorial staff. Erroneous ILS
when conducting a coupled approach to stallation, an aircraft might be 40, 50 or Indications Pose Risk of Controlled
an uncontrolled airport, but it provides 60 degrees left or right of the localizer Flight Into Terrain. Flight Safety Digest,
no guidance for ground operations. course or on a 9-degree glide path July 2002.

ILS holding position


Runway holding position

Not to scale

Glideslope critical area

Glideslope antenna
Susan Reed

Taxiway

flightsafety.org | AeroSafetyWorld | July 2012 | 21