|FAA Deputy Administrator Monte Belger, FAA Administrator Jane Garvey, AOPA President Boyer, FAA Chief of Staff Carl Burleson, and Dennis Roberts, AOPA vice president of Government and Technical Affairs at the WAAS Summit Meeting.|
The GPS Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) is needed, and the FAA should continue developing the program. That was the consensus of the aviation industry March 15 at an intense "WAAS Summit Meeting."
Following a series of program delays, technical setbacks, and increasing costs, AOPA and the Air Transport Association (representing the major airlines) called for the meeting of top-level FAA officials and their WAAS contractors, industry, and aviation user groups (including airlines and general aviation) to "once and for all" answer the questions about what the users need, what benefits they'll get from WAAS, when the system will be delivered, and what it will cost.
During the unusually candid WAAS summit meeting, senior FAA officials said it was "painful to admit" the program had not yet delivered as promised. (The FAA contingent included FAA Administrator Jane Garvey, Deputy Administrator Monte Belger, and senior officials responsible for the WAAS development and certification).
But the FAA presented a realistic, attainable schedule that would deliver an LNAV/VNAV (lateral and vertical navigation) approach capability to the majority of the nation's airports by 2002. The satellite-based signal would permit approach minimums of 350 feet and one-mile visibility at most airports without requiring additional lighting systems and other expensive improvements on the ground.
"That would be a huge benefit and a tremendous safety advantage for general aviation," said AOPA President Phil Boyer, who chaired the summit meeting. "For GA, what we really want to do is get below the clouds. That's a good, safe approach."
"We'd take 350 feet and one mile in a heartbeat," said Bob Blouin of the National Business Aviation Association. Walt Coleman, representing the nation's regional airlines, pointed out that more airlines are buying small "regional jets" (RJs), but the majority of airports they serve do not have instrument approaches with vertical guidance.
"Our members are buying RJs, too," said ATA's Bob Frenzel, "and they will benefit from WAAS."
"Aviation is growing, but God isn't making any more airspace, and we're not building many more airports," said Steve Alterman of the Cargo Airline Association. "We need to manage the airspace better, and WAAS is the key."
WAAS is also key to other programs, including runway incursion prevention, Safe Flight 21, and Free Flight. WAAS guided approaches and departures can help with noise abatement as well.
But can the FAA and its WAAS contractor, Raytheon, really deliver?
To answer that, two independent review panels, made up of experts from Stanford University, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, MITRE Corporation, and Ohio University are now working with the FAA and Raytheon to identify the most cost-effective and expedient solutions to the remaining problems. The so-called WAAS Integrity Performance Panel (WIPP) has concluded that WAAS can deliver LNAV/VNAV. WIPP panel member Per Enge of Stanford University said the solutions are "crisp."
March 16, 2000