Tag Archives: WAAS

EXPLAINER: Avionics at the leading edge of performance navigation

Aviation International News has an outstanding wrap-up of the state of flight management systems (FMS) that offer  easy pilot control and core capabilities that set the stage for performance-based navigation (PBN).

Flight management systems have never been considered simple pieces of equipment, but the technology is quickly evolving beyond basic navigation and performance functionality to include a host of new capabilities that hold the promise of changing the way pilots fly for the better.

Absent from some of the latest integrated avionics systems are the bezel-mounted control display units (CDU) flight crews have known since the 1970s. Instead, many modern business jets and some of the latest airliners are integrating FMS controls with the flight displays and cursor control devices (CCD), allowing pilots to point and click their way through a variety of menus or drag and drop any portion of their flight route (a technique known as “rubber-banding”) to include or modify a waypoint. The changes are resulting in cockpits that are more intuitive than those of the past–and even those of the present, in many cases–while packing more capability than ever before.

At the same time, hardware and software upgrades available from FMS manufacturers are opening the possibilities for complex, curved RNP (required navigation performance) procedures and the latest WAAS LPV (lateral precision with vertical guidance) approaches. The changes expand the operational capabilities of properly equipped airplanes today while serving as a cornerstone for future operations in so-called NextGen airspace.

Required navigation performance will be a key element of NextGen airspace. The benefit of a so-called RNP SAAAR [special aircraft and aircrew authorization required] approach is that it can carve out a highly precise, curved path through the sky that usually results in lower landing minimums–sometimes much lower. But gaining approval is a costly and complex endeavor requiring submittal of monthly operational reports to the FAA, pilot simulator training and operations manual revisions. Considering that fewer than 100 RNP SAAAR approaches have been published so far, most operators probably won’t go to the trouble of gaining approval until their home airport has an RNP approach. But as more RNP procedures are created, operators who forego such approvals will be at a disadvantage compared with those who are SAAAR compliant.

To assist operators seeking to upgrade to RNP capability, Honeywell has launched Go Direct, a consulting service designed to help business jet operators take advantage of new RNP SAAAR procedures the FAA is adding at scores of airports around the U.S. The agency plans to publish 60 new RNP SAAAR procedures per year for the next two years. Some airports scheduled to receive an RNP approach in the next 12 months include Teterboro, N.J.; Aspen and Eagle, Colo.; Monterey, Calif.; and Scottsdale, Ariz. If your home airport or an airport you use often offers an RNP SAAAR approach, the approval can mean the difference between landing or having to execute the missed approach and consider other options.

The major advantage RNP procedures have over other types of approach is their tighter lateral boundaries, which allow the creation of curved pathways through mountain valleys or by using so-called radius-to-fix (RF) turns to avoid terrain or obstacles. The RNP SAAAR approach to Atlanta DeKalb-Peachtree Airport (PDK) is a good example of the benefits RNP can provide. The approach to PDK’s Runway 2R incorporates a continuous descending turn designed to avoid the tall towers that block the straight-in approach to the field. Due to the east-west flows at nearby Hartsfield-Jackson International, a straight-in ILS or WAAS LPV approach to this runway would be hard to implement, even if the obstacles southwest of the airport were removed.

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NetJets, FAA sign NextGen agreement

From Aviation Week:

NetJets Aviation Inc. has signed a wide ranging agreement with the FAA that will place the fractional jet operator in the forefront of the transformation of the U.S. air transportation system under the NextGen modernization program.

NetJets officials and FAA managers from a range of the agency’s functional areas will meet later this month to begin working out the details. NetJets plans to run some test programs in various parts of the U.S. by equipping some of the 550 to 600 aircraft it manages for fractional owners in the U.S. with the required avionics. Tests may involve the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS), Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast, area navigation (RNAV) and Required Navigation Performance (RNP) and possibly the use of electronic flight bags.

More here…

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Explainer: Wide Area Augmentation System

Do you know exactly what WAAS is, and what sets it apart from regular GPS? Could you explain it in a few sentences?  If not, this FAA fact sheet is for you.  Clearly written, and also includes a brief history of how WAAS was developed and deployed.

Interesting tidbit: according to the FAA, WAAS approaches now outnumber traditional ILS approaches.

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$88 million goes to Raytheon for WAAS

The FAA has announced it will exercise its option to retain Raytheon Corp. for follow-on services related to the Wide Area Augemntation System (WAAS). As this award announcement lays out, the company will be paid $88 million for hardware and software upgrades, and additional engineering support meant to specifically improve so-called LPV-200 service (Localizer Performance with Vertical Guidance).

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NOAA adds high-resolution GPS tracking stations

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports it has brought 43 GPS tracking stations online, including 13 sites that will feed the WAAS (Wide Area Augmentation System) network. Four of the new WAAS sites are located in Alaska, four in Canada, and five in Mexico. The NOAA’s release explains:

WAAS provides differential GPS correctors for safe airline navigation across North America. These correctors help more precisely determine a position and enable pilots to determine the three-dimensional location of their aircraft with an accuracy of a few meters.

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More from Oshkosh: Sturgell sees controller workload easing

As I mentioned earlier, Acting FAA Administrator Robert Sturgell took questions about air traffic control and NextGen issues at last week’s AirVenture event. While a transcript isn’t available, AIN Online did have some additional quotes and insight in their report from Oshkosh. Sturgell characterized the nation’s ATC system as being:

in a “transition” phase as controllers hired in the wake of the 1981 Patco strike retire. […] He said that the agency is replacing the retiring controllers through aggressive hiring–at a rate of 1,800 controllers per year–and training.
The agency’s ongoing contract dispute with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association union (Natca) should be kept in perspective, he noted. “We value this work force,” Sturgell said, adding that the FAA had placed a $70 million settlement issue “on the table.”
Sturgell charged that Natca’s contract demands, if applied retroactively, would cost more than $1 billion and that, overall, controller workload has decreased significantly since 2000 in terms of the number of operations handled by an average controller.
He also said that new technology could further lighten future controller workload. That technology includes ADS-B and WAAS. Sturgell noted that ADS-B would be up and running at select South Florida airports by the end of the summer.

[Kudos to AIN’s Mark Huber for his reporting.]

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FAA’s Sturgell on NextGen: “We’re making solid progress”

A dispatch from Oshkosh, courtesy of Aero-News Network, quotes Acting FAA Administrator Robert Sturgell on NextGen:

“I can say that we’re making solid progress. The foundational technologies are either already in place or will be soon enough. They include WAAS, which provides increased airport access in reduced visibility conditions. We’ve published over 1,000 WAAS LPV procedures and we now have more of them than ILS procedures.

“RNP/RNAV are also making a difference. Look at what’s going on at DeKalb Peachtree Airport in Atlanta. The new RNP procedure will support IMC operations to runway 2R to a 340-foot decision height. This mitigates obstacles on the approach path and de-conflicts traffic flows around Peachtree and Hartsfield.”

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