FAA commissions an enhanced GPS system

FAA commissions an enhanced GPS system

The Federal Aviation Administration's latest modernization component, one designed to help pilots land safely, officially went into operation Thursday. The Wide Area Augmentation System, or WAAS, was commissioned at David J. Hurley Air Traffic Control Systems Command Center in Herndon, Va., after years of cost overruns and delays.

WAAS had been in limited use, but FAA recently completed extensive testing of the enhanced navigation system to ensure readiness for widespread use. WAAS will be available at 280 airports.

Small and general aviation carriers will benefit the most from the satellite system, although commercial carriers also can use WAAS, an FAA spokeswoman said. Large commercial carriers use the satellite-based Global Positioning System.

'Once avionics are certified to receive the system's full capability, WAAS will allow precision instrument approaches at thousands of runways at airports and airstrips that have little or no ground-based landing capability,' FAA administrator Marion Blakey said. 'WAAS will also provide improved en route capabilities because pilots can fly more direct and shorter routes without depending on ground-based navigation aids.'

Unlike ground-based aids, WAAS will cover an extensive service area. The WAAS network links ground reference stations across 90 percent of the nation. The ground stations continually monitor GPS satellites, compute corrections and broadcast the more accurate information via geostationary satellites to pilots.

FAA has certified WAAS aviation receivers from UPS Aviation Technologies of Salem, Ore., and Chelton Flight Systems of Boise, Idaho, for horizontal navigation. Later this year, they will be certified for vertical WAAS capability, the spokeswoman said.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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