The Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) has passed the critical 60-day test. That proves that WAAS can reliably provide satellite-guided, ILS-like instrument approaches into almost all airports. Some 4,000 airports today lack ILS approaches. And AOPA has learned that the WAAS contractor (Raytheon) can turn the system over to the FAA in February, well ahead of schedule.
"We met with the FAA last week and encouraged them to approve WAAS for IFR by June of next year," said Randy Kenagy, AOPA director of advanced technology. "This new technology should be in the hands of the community as soon as possible. There's no reason to wait for the scheduled December implementation date when the system works now."
WAAS improves the accuracy, integrity, and reliability of the GPS signal. While GPS provides lateral guidance, GPS plus WAAS adds vertical guidance. That near-precision approach capability and vertical guidance will bring a new level of safety and utility to general aviation airports around the nation.
"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," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "Using satellite technology, WAAS will provide these airports the extra measure of safety and approach minimums now available at air carrier airports."
As soon as WAAS is approved for IFR, the FAA expects to issue a "blanket approval" permitting all IFR approach-approved WAAS receivers to fly the LNAV/VNAV minima now being published on some approach charts. The FAA will soon begin to publish "LPV" approaches, a new approach type that has lower minima and can be flown only with WAAS equipment. LPV approaches will likely have minima of 250 feet and three quarters of a mile visibility with approach lights and precision runway markings.