FAA commissions WAAS navigation

The Federal Aviation Administration has commissioned a new satellite navigation system for instrument flight use, taking the first step toward opening pilot access to more than 500 satellite runway procedures at more than 200 airports nationwide.

The Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) is designed to enhance the accuracy and reliability of the Global Positioning System (GPS), and transmits horizontal and vertical guidance capability.

Pending certification of avionics with vertical navigation capabilities, pilots will be able to navigate as low as 350 feet above the runway under instrument flight rules using satellite navigation to provide stable vertical guidance. By the end of the year, new procedures will be in place that will result in lowering the approach level to 250 feet above the runway.

GPS "has provided tremendous safety benefits to the traveling public throughout most modes of transportation," Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said. "Commissioning WAAS moves us closer to realizing the aviation potential of GPS and the precision it can add to the world's safest and most complex airspace 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 added.

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