Light aircraft safety at GVA: balance and future prospects


On Tuesday 4 March 2008, Geneva International Airport published a report devoted to control of the hazards associated with mixing light (VFR) and heavy (IFR) aircraft traffic. The report, which is the result of a study carried out in 2004 at the request of GVA as part of the work of the Franco-Swiss Joint Commission, enabled an assessment of existing procedures and a check on the extent to which they are compatible with traffic growth. The report complements the constant efforts of GVA, Skyguide and the Aéroclub de Genève to ensure operating safety.

The aim of the report by the NLR (Netherlands National Aerospace Laboratory), the research institute that was given the task in 2004, was to answer the following two questions:

  • Does the current mix of light (VFR) and heavy (IFR) air traffic operations at the airport of Geneva satisfy all safety criteria?
  • How will this develop in future? In the timeframe 2010 and 2020.


The report, submitted in 2005, did not reveal any problems indicating a major risk that might require emergency measures; the procedures and documents relating to mixed usage in VFR/IFR operations on GVA’s two runways were generally based on accepted international practice.


The NLR report did however make two recommendations:

  • ICAO international standards relating to wake turbulence should be applied;
  • VFR/IFR traffic management control procedures should be better formalised.


Swiss airports, including GVA, apply nationally and internationally prescribed standards. Standards at Geneva airport are in compliance with Swiss regulations that allow a departure from the ICAO standard. Since the issue of the report, control procedures have been better formalised:

  1. The Skyguide company has been certified since December 2006 to "Single European Sky" standards.
  2. Since 2006, GVA has introduced its SMS (Safety Management System) with the aim of formalising procedures associated with all operations on its two runways and its tarmac.
  3. In February 2006, GVA was COFA (Certification of aerodrome) certified, showing that it meets airport operating requirements as defined by ICAO.

GVA, Skyguide and the Aéroclub have also introduced other measures in recent years with the aim of improving safety continuously.

Publication of the report today was made possible by a ruling of the Administrative Tribunal, following a request by local residents who invoked the LIPAD (Swiss freedom of information act). GVA had held back publication until now, by agreement with FOCA, because of its wish to communicate the report first to the Franco-Swiss Joint Commission that was responsible for the move in the first place.