Earlier this month, Garmin won the first-ever certification for an LPV-capable avionics system, clearing the way for WAAS, the Wide Area Augmentation System, to live up to its potential. AOPA has been the industry's driving force for WAAS, maintaining constant involvement in and advocacy for the program since its inception in 1995.
"Nearly 15 years ago, AOPA saw the great potential of satellite-based navigation and pressed Congress to make the Global Positioning System (GPS) available for civil aviation use," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "As the technology advanced, AOPA fought to make sure system enhancements received the funding necessary."
The association has lobbied for WAAS in Congress, worked closely with FAA's technical staff and was a key instigator of an independent review of the program in 2000 that determined WAAS was necessary and technically feasible.
"Wherever I go, GA pilots want to know, 'How can we get an ILS at our airport?'" said Boyer. "WAAS is the answer for providing precision approaches to all of those airports where ILS just isn't financially or technically possible. And we can provide an approach with vertical guidance to each runway end of qualified airports.
WAAS sensors receive the signal broadcast by GPS satellites, correct any errors, and rebroadcast the corrected signals to WAAS-enabled aircraft receivers, thereby enhancing the integrity, accuracy, reliability, and safety of the already highly accurate GPS signal."
"Now, with the arrival of GPS units that can be used for both lateral and vertical guidance, we truly have a satellite-based navigation system that does everything for the instrument-rated GA pilot that ILS does," said Boyer. "Right now - today - there are hundreds upon hundreds more runways that have accurate vertical guidance, which means enhanced safety for IFR and VFR pilots alike.
"AOPA has been working aggressively with the FAA to speed up the approval and implementation of LPV (localizer performance with vertical guidance) approaches. And the other half of the equation is that owners must equip or upgrade their avionics to make use of the WAAS technology."
When the FAA first activated the WAAS system in July 2003, AOPA recognized that publishing thousands of new approaches would be labor- and time-intensive and urged the FAA to explore innovative ways to accelerate the approach approval system, such as working with private sector vendors to survey and design the approaches.
"As we saw with the original GPS units a decade ago, pilots will quickly adopt new technology that demonstrates the proper balance of cost and benefits," said Boyer. "With the first certification of an LPV-capable GPS unit, all the technical pieces of WAAS are in place. Now it's up to the FAA to provide the approaches."
The more than 400,000-member Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association has represented the interests of general aviation pilots since 1939. General aviation includes all flying except the scheduled airlines and the military. Nearly two thirds of all U.S. pilots, and three quarters of the GA pilots, are AOPA members.
October 21, 2004