May 6, 2004 - Top officials at the FAA have told AOPA that the agency is committed to maturing satellite-based navigation for the long haul using the wide area augmentation system (WAAS). During a meeting at AOPA headquarters on Tuesday, executives from the FAA's Air Traffic Organization shared the agency's latest program developments. They said part of the plan for supporting general aviation's transition to WAAS is to develop 500 WAAS approaches each year, making the system more attractive to GA pilots.
WAAS is a ground-based system that adjusts for errors in signals from the Global Positioning System, providing unparalleled navigation performance. The FAA has taken a building block approach to WAAS, adding enhancements as they become available. The system currently supports approaches with minimum weather standards close to those for instrument landing systems (ILS). Ultimately it will be capable of precise ILS Category 1 guidance for approaches into airports that don't have instrument landing system equipment.
"Using WAAS to deliver all-weather access to airports increases a local community's access to the world," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "This is why AOPA embraced this navigation system early on."
The FAA expects to be able to deliver Category I ILS performance throughout the continental United States and parts of Alaska using WAAS. But that won't happen until after a full constellation of new-generation GPS satellites are in place, expected sometime around 2013.
"The fact that the FAA is looking beyond 2013 all the way to at least 2028 illustrates the agency's commitment to a satellite-based navigation system based on WAAS," said AOPA Senior Director of Advanced Technology Randy Kenagy. "And the agency's acknowledgement that they have to turn out hundreds of WAAS approaches each year is the first step in getting the approach production started."
AOPA has championed a conversion to a satellite-based navigation system since 1990. And during the development of what has become WAAS, the association repeatedly told the FAA that the system must be able to deliver the same accuracy, availability, and dependability as the current instrument landing system.