Capturing The Safety High Ground

British Airways has just taken delivery of its first aircraft fitted with the new Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System (EGPWS), coinciding with a call yesterday by US Vice-President Al Gore for all commercial aircraft overflying the USA to be fitted with the equipment.

This is another lead in air passenger safety taken by British Airways, marking the first stage of a £20 million investment to install new state-of-the-art flight deck displays which warn pilots if they are approaching high ground or descending too low when visibility is poor. The first BA aircraft to be delivered with the system installed was a Boeing 777. It will come as standard on all new British Airways jets and will be retrofitted to the carrier’s existing fleet.

British Airways is the first airline in Europe to make a safety commitment of this magnitude to the new Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System (EGPWS) and the first to retrofit it to an existing fleet. British Airways pioneered successful trials with the new EGPWS in one of its Boeing 747-400s and has now ordered 279 EGPWS computers.

British Airways has been closely linked to the development of EGPWS ever since the end of the “cold war” when digital “terrain contour maps”, used for cruise missile guidance, were first de-classified and made available for civil use.

Captain Mike Jeffery, the airline’s Director of Flight Operations, said: “Safety is our first priority at British Airways, and we are consistently taking the lead on new safety initiatives. Airline safety around the world is generally good and improving, but the most serious accidents continue to happen to perfectly serviceable aircraft which are inadvertently flown into the ground.


“While this has never occurred to a British Airways aircraft, the new system will help our highly trained pilots to address this threat well in advance by displaying colour-coded satellite-data maps of high ground hundreds of miles away, and in graphic detail near airports.”

The new EGPWS combines satellite data of the Earth’s precise contours with readings from the aircraft’s sophisticated navigation systems to place it at the correct position within a ‘virtual-reality’ map.