New WAAS Coverage Clears the Way for New Access to Airports

NextGen Update

NextGen Implementation Plan (PDF)

Performance Based Navigation (PBN)
Addresses ways to leverage emerging technologies, such as satellite-based Area Navigation and Required Navigation Performance, to improve access and flexibility for point-to-point operations.

The FAA has reached a major milestone in its move to a NextGen satellite-based navigation system when it published more than 3000 Wide Area Augmentation System or WAAS approaches nationwide.

What is WAAS?

GPS alone does not meet the FAA's navigation requirements for accuracy, integrity, and availability. WAAS corrects for GPS signal errors caused by atmospheric disturbances, timing, and errors in satellite orbit. It also provides vital information regarding the health of each GPS satellite.

GPS, augmented with WAAS, provides the national airspace with a satellite-based capability to determine an aircraft's airborne position with accuracy for en route navigation, non-precision approach, and precision approach. The new technology — cheaper and easier to install and maintain than traditional navigation aids — will lower minimums at many airports and give new access during bad weather. Using WAAS, aircraft can access over 2,500 runway ends in poor weather conditions with minimums as low as 200 feet. WAAS can even get pilots into places where the Instrument Landing System (ILS) may not be available. This milestone has an additional benefit for pilots and passengers across the national airspace, as ILS technology fades and needs repair and maintenance, replacing them with the more precise technology is now an option.

The general aviation community welcomed the new WAAS approaches. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) noted the procedures guide pilots safely through the clouds without reference to outside visual references or ground-based navaids.