Following the FAA's August 24 announcement that the GPS Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) signal is now available full-time, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is urging the agency to move forward with a realistic certification program for the enhanced satellite navigation system.
"This announcement means that we've moved one step closer to what AOPA has long been advocating—a satellite-based navigation system that can provide accurate instrument approaches to virtually any airport," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "Now the FAA must move forward with a WAAS certification program that focuses on what's needed and achievable and not demand an impossible standard of theoretical perfection."
The FAA said last week that WAAS had successfully completed a 21-day stability test, allowing immediate use of the system by a broad range of users. (WAAS enhances the GPS signal to provide improved accuracy, availability, reliability, and integrity.) The test showed the WAAS system can operate without interruption and provide a horizontal signal accuracy of one to two meters and a vertical accuracy of two to three meters.
"GPS-WAAS, coupled with the new generation of multifunction displays (MFDs), gives a tremendous benefit today for all aviation users to augment their primary means of navigation," said Boyer. "We can use WAAS now, for example, to show a pilot precisely where he is on an airport. That can help reduce runway incursions."
Boyer noted that detailed airport taxi diagrams are currently being developed for MFD and GPS databases, and avionics manufacturers are developing WAAS receivers. Such new technology avionics systems will also provide improved terrain awareness for pilots using the WAAS signal.
"Even though GPS-WAAS isn't yet approved for IFR operations, the improved situational awareness available from WAAS means this system has real utility for general aviation even as a supplemental means of navigation," said Boyer.
Raytheon, the contractor developing WAAS for the FAA, will operate the system on a continuous basis, interrupting it only as necessary to upgrade or test the system.
AOPA has been the leading advocate of GPS for civilian use. The association's 1990 seminal report to Congress, "The Future Is Now," helped open the military navigation system to widespread civilian applications ranging from aviation to surveying to automobile navigation systems.
The 360,000-member Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is the world's largest civil aviation organization. More than one half of the nation's pilots are AOPA members.
August 29, 2000