After 10 frustrating years of technical delays, escalating costs and contractor changes, the FAA’s GPS wide area augmentation system (WAAS) is approaching the level of performance the agency originally envisioned for it back in the late 1980s. With the system’s initial operational capability declared in 2003 and 18 months of satisfactory performance now behind them, WAAS advocates can see light at the end of the tunnel.
Last month I started a discussion about what I have come to recognize as a serious disconnect between pilots and mechanics, each of whom performs critical tasks necessary to prepare an aircraft for safe flight. For lack of a better term, I call this phenomenon negative culture. Although the phenomenon exists in every industry, in few industries does it carry consequences as severe as those in aviation.
Few navigation systems have experienced the ups and downs of loran as they sought recognition. In December, a UK agency said the system is an essential back-up to GPS; the same month the FAA rejected it for the same purpose and an independent group of U.S. experts unanimously endorsed the system as a backup.
Federal agencies on January 8 issued a notice asking for the public’s help to decide if there is a need to continue to operate or invest in the loran-C radio navigation system beyond September 30. They gave the public only 30 days–until February 7–to submit comments.
Federal agencies are asking for the public’s help to decide if there is a need to continue to operate or invest in the loran-C radio navigation system beyond Fiscal Year 2007 (which ends September 30). While the current loran-C system is based on technology developed in the 1960s, some of the stations have been updated to allow for an enhanced signal (eLoran).
A number of changes to service charges proposed by Nav Canada will not go into effect as planned on March 1. Nav Canada, the private corporation that provides the country’s air navigation and ATC services said, “More time is needed to consider the comments and suggestions made in submissions received from stakeholders during the consultations period,” which ended on February 10.
China has disclosed that it intends to build a GPS-like global navigation system. Named Compass, the $2 billion system would have 30 satellites in medium earth orbits similar to the current GPS. Five additional satellites will provide WAAS-like and other functions, with a forecast 10-meter accuracy free to all users. Western experts predict likely operation between 2015 and 2020.
Boeing’s delivery in May of a 737-800 airliner certified for the global navigation satellite landing system (GLS) marked the culmination of a 10-year development effort. It also served as a reminder that the ground-based augmentation system (GBAS) still has a future, despite a U.S.
Like the proverbial cat with nine lives, loran has once more rebounded from attempts on its life. Loran has always been owned and operated by the U.S. Coast Guard, which since the late 1990s has been trying to close down the system. Congress has consistently demurred and has each year put continuing operating funds for loran back into the agency’s budget.
Dramatic reductions in approach minimums at terrain-challenged airports are among the more spectacular results of applying RNP-Rnav. But more widespread benefits are promised when procedures based on the capabilities of modern aircraft supersede those that tie the airplanes to expensive ground navigational aids.