For Immediate Release

Release No. APA 148-98
December 16, 1998
Contact: Tammy L. Jones
Phone: 202-267-8521

WASHINGTON, DC — The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Republic of Chile's Director General of Civil Aeronautics (DGAC) successfully completed the first test flights in Chile demonstrating the capabilities and benefits of the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS).

The test flights were conducted at the Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport in Santiago, Chile, on Dec. 9. This effort represents the latest step towards achieving a seamless, worldwide satellite-based air navigation system. WAAS consists of a network of differential Global Positioning System (GPS) ground stations that receive, analyze and provide corrections to signals from GPS satellites, and transmit that information to aircraft flying within the WAAS coverage area.

"These successful flight trials achieved another major step toward the establishment of a safer and more dependable satellite-based air navigation system for North and South America," said FAA Administrator Jane F. Garvey.

Reference stations in Santiago, Balmaceda, and Antofagasta were installed this fall and connected to the FAA-developed National Satellite Test Bed master station in Atlantic City, N.J. via a combination of satellite and terrestrial communications.

For this demonstration, an FAA Boeing 727 aircraft conducted a series of Category I precision approaches (down to approximately 200 feet) using a navigation signal generated and broadcast by the Test Bed. The Test Bed, in use since 1991, has routinely demonstrated navigation accuracy (horizontal and vertical) well within the Category I precision approach requirements to both national and international audiences.

These tests will help international aviation authorities make the transition from current ground-based navigation technologies to satellite-based navigation using GPS/WAAS as the cornerstone technologies.

One of the highlights of this WAAS demonstration was to showcase the flexibility of satellite navigation technology for tailored or unique precision approaches in situations where current ground-based precision approach technologies are limited.

The Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport is surrounded by the Andes Mountain range and requires very flexible and precise navigation systems. Preliminary analyses indicate that the horizontal and vertical accuracies for all flights were approximately 3-4 meters, well under the 7.6 meters required for Category I precision approaches.