Pilots will be able to make ILS-like instrument approaches using GPS by the end of 2003, the FAA said last week. The agency set a new schedule for commissioning the GPS Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) after releasing a report from independent satellite navigation experts. The independent review board (IRB) concluded that WAAS will work and is critical to both aviation and other users.
"While we're disappointed that WAAS schedule has slipped a year, AOPA has always understood that this new and highly complex technology would be difficult to implement," said AOPA President Phil Boyer.
"The IRB report confirms our position that the promise of near-precision approach capability and vertical guidance to more than 4,000 community airports without that capability today will bring a new level of safety and utility to these vital airports around the nation."
Boyer noted that AOPA members primarily use general aviation airports that don't have the money to install ground-based ILS systems, which can cost more than $1 million.
"Using satellite technology, WAAS will provide these airports the extra measure of safety and approach minimums now available at air carrier airports," Boyer said.
The initial LNAV/VNAV capability will allow vertically guided approaches to decision heights of 400 feet/one-mile visibility at most GA airports, without additional lighting systems or other expensive airport improvements. Later upgrades can provide minima of 200 feet/1/2-mile visibility at properly equipped airports.
The IRB (which included such notables as Bradford Parkinson, considered the father of GPS) said its technical review showed that the system would actually work better than the FAA had estimated. It noted, "WAAS must be a success if the FAA is to implement and achieve its national airspace modernization plan."
The experts also said that WAAS is a benefit to all GPS users, from boaters and truckers to farmers and surveyors. "The benefits of WAAS are currently understated. Like GPS, many dimly understood payoffs will emerge only after WAAS is commissioned."