Saturday, March 29, 2008

FAA History Lesson -- March 29

From the FAA Historical Chronology, 1926-1996...

”Mar 29, 1996: The Clinton Administration announced a Presidential directive assuring the availabilility of Global Positioning System (GPS) signals to civilian users. The new policy included a planned end to the practice of degrading civil GPS signals, within a decade, in a manner that would allow the U.S. military to prepare for this eventuality.

On Apr 26, FAA cancelled its contract with Wilcox Electric for the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) to enhance GPS signals (see Aug 1, 1995). The agency cited project management problems and projected cost overruns. On May 1, FAA entered into a letter contract with Hughes Information Technology Systems regarding WAAS. This was followed by the Oct 29 announcement of a comprehensive contract with Hughes for WAAS development and implementation. Other related milestones during 1996 included a Jul 26 FAA plan for transition to GPS-based navigation and landing guidance during a period of about 10 years that would start when augmented GPS service became available.“

When you start talking about GPS, WAAS and LAAS -- things start getting complicated in a hurry. Like so many things, I suggest hopping over to Wikipedia if you’d like to find out more.

To be honest, the only thing that grabbed my attention in Wikipedia’s WAAS article was this:

”The 2004 baseline estimates the final program cost to the US Federal government as over US$ 3.3 billion when delivered in 2013; more than 3.7 times the original budget and 12 years behind schedule. “

When we’re talking basics, controllers don’t really care how pilots navigate -- just so long as they can navigate. The problem is when the FAA starts certifying various means of navigation without basic commonality. Controllers don’t care how you get to TAWBA -- with INS, GPS, LORAN or NDB -- we just want you to get there and we don’t want to have to spell it, give out the radial/fix distance or look up the Lat/Long for it.

Don Brown
March 29, 2008

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