WAAS: What It Means To You

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As AVweb told you Thursday, ILS-like accuracy could be coming to an airport near you, thanks to the FAA's new Wide Area Augmentation System. The WAAS signal, which improves GPS receiver accuracy, was switched on and now properly equipped aircraft can pinpoint their position to within a few meters. But the major impact will be in the creation of ILS-like approaches to hundreds of airports not yet served by the costly (to buy and maintain) ground-based ILS equipment. AOPA President Phil Boyer said the organization has been behind the over-budget, years-late system from its inception. FAA Administrator Marion Blakey apologized for the delays but said it was worth the wait. "The general aviation community will be the first to benefit from this system," she said. To make use of the 500 GPS approaches already written, WAAS-capable GPS units must be certified for vertical and lateral positions. Only two companies, UPSAT and Chelton, have those systems built and they are expected to be certified by the end of the year. "WAAS is the answer for providing precision approaches to all of those airports where ILS just isn't possible," Boyer said, adding that other companies would surely follow in the steps of UPSAT and Chelton. Now, he said, it's up to the FAA to speed up the publishing of WAAS approaches to the remaining thousands of airports in the U.S. "At the present rate it will take 30 years to chart WAAS approaches into all airports," Boyer said.