WAAS works well during demonstration

WAAS works well during demonstration

By Tony Lee Orr

GCN Staff

MARCH 6'The flight was bumpy but the Wide Area Augmentation System worked smoothly during a demonstration of the navigation system that augments Global Positioning System data to help pilots keep their aircraft on track.

WAAS is an important component in the Federal Aviation Administration's modernization plans because it eventually will let pilots choose more direct routes and will make landings safer, officials with WAAS contractor Raytheon Corp. said. Raytheon demonstrated the system for reporters and congressional representatives during a handful of flights from Washington to Atlantic City, N.J.

The program far exceeded FAA requirements that the system help keep the plane on course within a 7.6-meter margin of error. During the test, the plane kept between three and four meters of the plotted course. Even during the approach, when turbulence caused stomach-churning anxiety, the system appeared to help keep the airplane on its correct path.

Raytheon is struggling with the WAAS certification requirements. FAA is demanding that the navigation system provide no more than one-second of errant GPS data in a 47.5-year period. It is a statistic that is difficult to prove, said John D. Britigan, manager of navigation and landing systems for Raytheon.

"Observation of the signal alone cannot prove the required level of integrity is being met," he said. "Statistical, physical and mathematical analysis must also be used."

FAA decided earlier this year that Raytheon needed to refine WAAS' algorithms to ensure system dependability and to meet the agency's safety demands, Britigan said.

The agency is now deciding whether to roll out an early version of WAAS or to wait until Raytheon resolves all certification issues and than implement the final version, he said.

At www.gcn.com.

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