The recent successful completion of a 60-day continuous performance test of the FAA’s wide-area augmentation system (WAAS) is expected to clear the way for full IFR use of the satellite navigation concept starting late next year. The question now is whether anyone will be able to use it.
Wide Area Augmentation System
The business and commuter aircraft products business of Trimble Navigation has been purchased by newly established FreeFlight Systems, a sister company of Aircraft Systems & Manufacturing of Georgetown, Texas. Business aviation veteran Steve Williams is president of FreeFlight Systems, which will be based in Waco, Texas.
At press time, technical experts from the FAA, the U.S. Coast Guard and researchers from Ohio and Stanford Universities were due to begin a two-week flight-test program in Alaska to assess the use of loran transmitters to send out GPS WAAS messages across the state.
The FAA is preparing publication of the first LPV (lateral precision with vertical guidance) approaches, a new type of precision approach procedure designed specifically for WAAS. The hallmarks of LPV are lower landing minimums than Lnav/Vnav (250 ft and three-quarters of a mile visibility) and signals that are compatible only with IFR-approved WAAS receivers.
The Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) successfully passed a critical 60-day test that prime contractor Raytheon said proves the reliability of the signals for ILS-like approach procedures to thousands of airports not served by precision instrument approaches.
At press time, the FAA’s GPS local-area augmentation system (LAAS) appeared to be hanging in the balance while agency officials were attempting to determine whether there really was a firm industry need for the system.
After extensive industry consultation, the FAA has recently completed a document outlining its proposed strategy for transition from today’s terrestrial navaids to GPS, including proposed procedures to minimize the effect of GPS jamming.
The FAA’s original plan to transition to sole-means GPS is no longer practical and some form of backup will be required for the foreseeable future, according to speakers at a recent Navigation Industry Day. This event was sponsored by the DOT, FAA and Civil Aviation Advanced Systems Development (CAASD), which is a component of the federally-funded MITRE research and development center and a key FAA think-tank resource.
The FAA’s ADS-B Program Office has received a stern directive from top management to consult with industry representatives to produce a more acceptable version of its notice of proposed rule-making (NPRM), which in March received an almost unanimous thumbs-down from operators. “I guess the top brass took the program office to the woodshed on that one,” offered one long-time agency observer.
Eclipse Aviation this afternoon revealed another major change to the Avio NG avionics suite for the Eclipse 500, announcing the addition of two panel-mount, WAAS-capable Garmin GPS 400W receivers to bring GPS navigation capability to the very light jet. Certification of the upgrade for Avio NG system, itself an upgrade from the original Avio avionics, is expected by June, with production cut-in planned for the third quarter.