Wide-Area Augmentation System


  • The FAA developed the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) to improve the accuracy, integrity and availability of GPS signals
  • WAAS will allow GPS to be used, as the aviation navigation system, from takeoff through approach when it is complete
  • The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has defined Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) for satellite-based augmentation systems (SBAS) such as WAAS
    • India and Europe are building similar systems: EGNOS, the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay System; and India's GPS and Geo-Augmented Navigation (GAGAN) system
    • The merging of these systems will create an expansive navigation capability similar to GPS, but with greater accuracy, availability, and integrity
  • Unlike traditional ground-based navigation aids, WAAS will cover a more extensive service area. Precisely surveyed wide-area reference stations (WRS) are linked to form the U.S. WAAS network. Signals from the GPS satellites are monitored by these WRSs to determine satellite clock and ephemeris corrections and to model the propagation effects of the ionosphere. Each station in the network relays the data to a wide-area master station (WMS) where the correction information is computed. A correction message is prepared and uplinked to a geostationary earth orbit satellite (GEO) via a GEO uplink subsystem (GUS) which is located at the ground earth station (GES). The message is then broadcast on the same frequency as GPS (L1, 1575.42 MHz) to WAAS receivers within the broadcast coverage area of the WAAS GEO
  • In addition to providing the correction signal, the WAAS GEO provides an additional pseudorange measurement to the aircraft receiver, improving the availability of GPS by providing, in effect, an additional GPS satellite in view. The integrity of GPS is improved through real-time monitoring, and the accuracy is improved by providing differential corrections to reduce errors. The performance improvement is sufficient to enable approach procedures with GPS/WAAS glide paths (vertical guidance)
  • The FAA has completed installation of 3 GEO satellite links, 38 WRSs, 3 WMSs, 6 GES, and the required terrestrial communications to support the WAAS network including 2 operational control centers. Prior to the commissioning of the WAAS for public use, the FAA conducted a series of test and validation activities. Future dual frequency operations are planned
  • GNSS navigation, including GPS and WAAS, is referenced to the WGS-84 coordinate system. It should only be used where the Aeronautical Information Publications (including electronic data and aeronautical charts) conform to WGS-84 or equivalent. Other countries' civil aviation authorities may impose additional limitations on the use of their SBAS systems

Instrument Approach Capabilities:

  • A class of approach procedures which provide vertical guidance, but which do not meet the ICAO Annex 10 requirements for precision approaches has been developed to support satellite navigation use for aviation applications worldwide
    • These procedures are not precision and are referred to as Approach with Vertical Guidance (APV), are defined in ICAO Annex 6, and include approaches such as the LNAV/VNAV and localizer performance with vertical guidance (LPV)
    • These approaches provide vertical guidance, but do not meet the more stringent standards of a precision approach
    • Properly certified WAAS receivers will be able to fly to LPV minima and LNAV/VNAV minima, using a WAAS electronic glide path, which eliminates the errors that can be introduced by using Barometric altimetry
  • LPV minima takes advantage of the high accuracy guidance and increased integrity provided by WAAS
    • This WAAS generated angular guidance allows the use of the same TERPS approach criteria used for ILS approaches. LPV minima may have a decision altitude as low as 200 feet height above touchdown with visibility minimums as low as 1/2 mile, when the terrain and airport infrastructure support the lowest minima. LPV minima is published on the RNAV (GPS) approach charts (see Paragraph 5-4-5, Instrument Approach Procedure Charts)
  • A different WAAS­based line of minima, called Localizer Performance (LP) is being added in locations where the terrain or obstructions do not allow publication of vertically guided LPV minima
    • LP takes advantage of the angular lateral guidance and smaller position errors provided by WAAS to provide a lateral only procedure similar to an ILS Localizer. LP procedures may provide lower minima than a LNAV procedure due to the narrower obstacle clearance surface

WAAS receivers certified prior to TSO-C145b and TSO-C146b, even if they have LPV capability, do not contain LP capability unless the receiver has been upgraded. Receivers capable of flying LP procedures must contain a statement in the Aircraft Flight Manual (AFM), AFM Supplement, or Approved Supplemental Flight Manual stating that the receiver has LP capability, as well as the capability for the other WAAS and GPS approach procedure types

  • WAAS provides a level of service that supports all phases of flight, including RNAV (GPS) approaches to LNAV, LP, LNAV/VNAV, and LPV lines of minima, within system coverage. Some locations close to the edge of the coverage may have a lower availability of vertical guidance

General Requirements:

  • WAAS avionics must be certified in accordance with Technical Standard Order (TSO) TSO-C145(), Airborne Navigation Sensors Using the (GPS) Augmented by the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS); or TSO-C146(), Stand-Alone Airborne Navigation Equipment Using the Global Positioning System (GPS) Augmented by the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS), and installed in accordance with Advisory Circular (AC) 20-138(), Airworthiness Approval of Positioning and Navigation Systems
  • GPS/WAAS operation must be conducted in accordance with the FAA-approved aircraft flight manual (AFM) and flight manual supplements. Flight manual supplements will state the level of approach procedure that the receiver supports. IFR approved WAAS receivers support all GPS only operations as long as lateral capability at the appropriate level is functional. WAAS monitors both GPS and WAAS satellites and provides integrity
  • GPS/WAAS equipment is inherently capable of supporting oceanic and remote operations if the operator obtains a fault detection and exclusion (FDE) prediction program
  • Air carrier and commercial operators must meet the appropriate provisions of their approved operations specifications
  • Prior to GPS/WAAS IFR operation, the pilot must review appropriate Notices to Air Missions (NOTAMs) and aeronautical information. This information is available on request from a Flight Service Station. The FAA will provide NOTAMs to advise pilots of the status of the WAAS and level of service available
    • The term MAY NOT BE AVBL is used in conjunction with WAAS NOTAMs and indicates that due to ionospheric conditions, lateral guidance may still be available when vertical guidance is unavailable. Under certain conditions, both lateral and vertical guidance may be unavailable. This NOTAM language is an advisory to pilots indicating the expected level of WAAS service (LNAV/VNAV, LPV, LP) may not be available
    • WAAS MAY NOT BE AVBL NOTAMs are predictive in nature and published for flight planning purposes. Upon commencing an approach at locations NOTAMed WAAS MAY NOT BE AVBL, if the WAAS avionics indicate LNAV/VNAV or LPV service is available, then vertical guidance may be used to complete the approach using the displayed level of service. Should an outage occur during the approach, reversion to LNAV minima or an alternate instrument approach procedure may be required. When GPS testing NOTAMS are published and testing is actually occurring, Air Traffic Control will advise pilots requesting or cleared for a GPS or RNAV (GPS) approach that GPS may not be available and request intentions. If pilots have reported GPS anomalies, Air Traffic Control will request the pilot's intentions and/or clear the pilot for an alternate approach, if available and operational
    • WAAS area-wide NOTAMs are originated when WAAS assets are out of service and impact the service area. Area-wide WAAS NOT AVAILABLE (AVBL) NOTAMs indicate loss or malfunction of the WAAS system. In flight, Air Traffic Control will advise pilots requesting a GPS or RNAV (GPS) approach of WAAS NOT AVBL NOTAMs if not contained in the ATIS broadcast
    • Example: For unscheduled loss of signal or service, an example NOTAM is: !FDC FDC NAV WAAS NOT AVBL 1311160600- 1311191200EST or For scheduled loss of signal or service, an example NOTAM is: !FDC FDC NAV WAAS NOT AVBL 1312041015­ 1312082000EST
    • Site-specific WAAS MAY NOT BE AVBL NOTAMs indicate an expected level of service; for example, LNAV/VNAV, LP, or LPV may not be available. Pilots must request site-specific WAAS NOTAMs during flight planning. In flight, Air Traffic Control will not advise pilots of WAAS MAY NOT BE AVBL NOTAMs
      • Though currently unavailable, the FAA is updating its prediction tool software to provide this site-service in the future
    • Most of North America has redundant coverage by two or more geostationary satellites. One exception is the northern slope of Alaska. If there is a problem with the satellite providing coverage to this area, a NOTAM similar to the following example will be issued:
  • When GPS-testing NOTAMS are published and testing is actually occurring, Air Traffic Control will advise pilots requesting or cleared for a GPS or RNAV (GPS) approach that GPS may not be available and request intentions. If pilots have reported GPS anomalies, Air Traffic Control will request the pilot's intentions and/or clear the pilot for an alternate approach, if available and operational
  • When the approach chart is annotated with the W symbol, site-specific WAAS MAY NOT BE AVBL NOTAMs or Air Traffic advisories are not provided for outages in WAAS LNAV/VNAV and LPV vertical service. Vertical outages may occur daily at these locations due to being close to the edge of WAAS system coverage. Use LNAV or circling minima for flight planning at these locations, whether as a destination or alternate. For flight operations at these locations, when the WAAS avionics indicate that LNAV/VNAV or LPV service is available, then the vertical guidance may be used to complete the approach using the displayed level of service. Should an outage occur during the procedure, reversion to LNAV minima may be required
    • Area-wide WAAS NOT AVBL NOTAMs apply to all airports in the WAAS NOT AVBL area designated in the NOTAM, including approaches at airports where an approach chart is annotated with the W symbol
  • GPS/WAAS was developed to be used within GEO coverage over North America without the need for other radio navigation equipment appropriate to the route of flight to be flown. Outside the WAAS coverage or in the event of a WAAS failure, GPS/WAAS equipment reverts to GPS-only operation and satisfies the requirements for basic GPS equipment. (See paragraph 1-1-17 for these requirements)
  • Unlike TSO-C129 avionics, which were certified as a supplement to other means of navigation, WAAS avionics are evaluated without reliance on other navigation systems. As such, installation of WAAS avionics does not require the aircraft to have other equipment appropriate to the route to be flown. (See paragraph 1-1-17d for more information on equipment requirements)
    • Pilots with WAAS receivers may flight plan to use any instrument approach procedure authorized for use with their WAAS avionics as the planned approach at a required alternate, with the following restrictions. When using WAAS at an alternate airport, flight planning must be based on flying the RNAV (GPS) LNAV or circling minima line, or minima on a GPS approach procedure, or conventional approach procedure with "or GPS" in the title. Code of Federal Regulation (CFR) Part 91 non-precision weather requirements must be used for planning. Upon arrival at an alternate, when the WAAS navigation system indicates that LNAV/VNAV or LPV service is available, then vertical guidance may be used to complete the approach using the displayed level of service. The FAA has begun removing the A-NA (Alternate Minimums Not Authorized) symbol from select RNAV (GPS) and GPS approach procedures so they may be used by approach approved WAAS receivers at alternate airports. Some approach procedures will still require the A-NA for other reasons, such as no weather reporting, so it cannot be removed from all procedures. Since every procedure must be individually evaluated, removal of the A-NA from RNAV (GPS) and GPS procedures will take some time
      • Properly trained and approved, as required, TSO­C145() and TSO­C146() equipped users (WAAS users) with and using approved baro­VNAV equipment may plan for LNAV/VNAV DA at an alternate airport. Specifically authorized WAAS users with and using approved baro­VNAV equipment may also plan for RNP 0.3 DA at the alternate airport as long as the pilot has verified RNP availability through an approved prediction program

Flying Procedures with WAAS

  • WAAS receivers support all basic GPS approach functions and provide additional capabilities. One of the major improvements is the ability to generate glide path guidance, independent of ground equipment or barometric aiding. This eliminates several problems such as hot and cold temperature effects, incorrect altimeter setting, or lack of a local altimeter source. It also allows approach procedures to be built without the cost of installing ground stations at each airport or runway. Some approach certified receivers may only generate a glide path with performance similar to Baro-VNAV and are only approved to fly the LNAV/VNAV line of minima on the RNAV (GPS) approach charts. Receivers with additional capability (including faster update rates and smaller integrity limits) are approved to fly the LPV line of minima. The lateral integrity changes dramatically from the 0.3 NM (556 meter) limit for GPS, LNAV, and LNAV/VNAV approach mode, to 40 meters for LPV. It also provides vertical integrity monitoring, which bounds the vertical error to 50 meters for LNAV/VNAV and LPVs with minima of 250' or above, and bounds the vertical error to 35 meters for LPVs with minima below 250'
  • When an approach procedure is selected and active, the receiver will notify the pilot of the most accurate level of service supported by the combination of the WAAS signal, the receiver, and the selected approach, using the naming conventions on the minima lines of the selected approach procedure. For example, if an approach is published with LPV minima and the receiver is only certified for LNAV/VNAV, the equipment would indicate "LNAV/VNAV available," even though the WAAS signal would support LPV. If flying an existing LNAV/VNAV procedure with no LPV minima, the receiver will notify the pilot "LNAV/VNAV available," even if the receiver is certified for LPV and the signal supports LPV. If the signal does not support vertical guidance on procedures with LPV and/or LNAV/VNAV minima, the receiver annunciation will read "LNAV available." On lateral only procedures with LP and LNAV minima the receiver will indicate "LP available" or "LNAV available" based on the level of lateral service available. Once the level of service notification has been given, the receiver will operate in this mode for the duration of the approach procedure, unless that level of service becomes unavailable. The receiver cannot change back to a more accurate level of service until the next time an approach is activated

NOTE:Receivers do not "fail down" to lower levels of service once the approach has been activated. If only the vertical off flag appears, the pilot may elect to use the LNAV minima if the rules under which the flight is operating allow changing the type of approach being flown after commencing the procedure. If the lateral integrity limit is exceeded on an LP approach, a missed approach will be necessary since there is no way to reset the lateral alarm limit while the approach is active

  • Another additional feature of WAAS receivers is the ability to exclude a bad GPS signal and continue operating normally. This is normally accomplished by the WAAS correction information. Outside WAAS coverage or when WAAS is not available, it is accomplished through a receiver algorithm called FDE. In most cases this operation will be invisible to the pilot since the receiver will continue to operate with other available satellites after excluding the "bad" signal. This capability increases the reliability of navigation
  • Both lateral and vertical scaling for the LNAV/VNAV and LPV approach procedures are different than the linear scaling of basic GPS. When the complete published procedure is flown, ±1 NM linear scaling is provided until two (2) NM prior to the FAF, where the sensitivity increases to be similar to the angular scaling of an ILS
  • There are two differences in the WAAS scaling and ILS:
    • On long final approach segments, the initial scaling will be ±0.3 NM to achieve equivalent performance to GPS (and better than ILS, which is less sensitive far from the runway);
    • Close to the runway threshold, the scaling changes to linear instead of continuing to become more sensitive. The width of the final approach course is tailored so that the total width is usually 700' at the runway threshold
      • Since the origin point of the lateral splay for the angular portion of the final is not fixed due to antenna placement like localizer, the splay angle can remain fixed, making a consistent width of final for aircraft being vectored onto the final approach course on different length runways
      • When the complete published procedure is not flown, and instead the aircraft needs to capture the extended final approach course similar to ILS, the vector to final (VTF) mode is used. Under VTF the scaling is linear at ±1 NM until the point where the ILS angular splay reaches a width of ±1 NM regardless of the distance from the FAWP
  • The WAAS scaling is also different than GPS TSO-C129() in the initial portion of the missed approach. Two differences occur here. First, the scaling abruptly changes from the approach scaling to the missed approach scaling, at approximately the departure end of the runway or when the pilot selects missed approach guidance rather than ramping as GPS does. Second, when the first leg of the missed approach is a Track to Fix (TF) leg aligned within 3 degrees of the inbound course, the receiver will change to 0.3 NM linear sensitivity until the turn initiation point for the first waypoint in the missed approach procedure, at which time it will abruptly change to terminal (±1 NM) sensitivity. This allows the elimination of close in obstacles in the early part of the missed approach that may otherwise cause the DA to be raised
  • There are two ways to select the final approach segment of an instrument approach. Most receivers use menus where the pilot selects the airport, the runway, the specific approach procedure and finally the IAF, there is also a channel number selection method. The pilot enters a unique 5-digit number provided on the approach chart, and the receiver recalls the matching final approach segment from the aircraft database. A list of information including the available IAFs is displayed and the pilot selects the appropriate IAF. The pilot should confirm that the correct final approach segment was loaded by cross checking the Approach ID, which is also provided on the approach chart
  • The Along-Track Distance (ATD) during the final approach segment of an LNAV procedure (with a minimum descent altitude) will be to the MAWP. On LNAV/VNAV and LPV approaches to a decision altitude, there is no missed approach waypoint so the along-track distance is displayed to a point normally located at the runway threshold. In most cases, the MAWP for the LNAV approach is located on the runway threshold at the centerline, so these distances will be the same. This distance will always vary slightly from any ILS DME that may be present, since the ILS DME is located further down the runway. Initiation of the missed approach on the LNAV/VNAV and LPV approaches is still based on reaching the decision altitude without any of the items listed in 14 CFR Section 91.175 being visible, and must not be delayed while waiting for the ATD to reach zero. The WAAS receiver, unlike a GPS receiver, will automatically sequence past the MAWP if the missed approach procedure has been designed for RNAV. The pilot may also select missed approach prior to the MAWP; however, navigation will continue to the MAWP prior to waypoint sequencing taking place

Private Pilot - Radio Communications, Navigation Systems/Facilities, and Radar Services Airman Certification Standards:

  • Objective: To determine the applicant exhibits satisfactory knowledge, risk management, and skills associated with radio communications, navigation systems/facilities, and radar services available for use during flight solely by reference to instruments
  • References: FAA-H-8083-2, FAA-H-8083-3, FAA-H-8083-15, FAA-H-8083-25

Radio Communications, Navigation Systems/Facilities, and Radar Services Knowledge:

The applicant demonstrates understanding of:
  • PA.VIII.F.K1:

    Operating communications equipment to include identifying and selecting radio frequencies, requesting and following air traffic control (ATC) instructions
  • PA.VIII.F.K2:

    Operating navigation equipment to include functions and displays, and following bearings, radials, or courses
  • PA.VIII.F.K3:

    Air traffic control facilities and services

Radio Communications, Navigation Systems/Facilities, and Radar Services Risk Management:

The applicant is able to identify, assess, and mitigate risk associated with:
  • PA.VIII.F.R1:

    When to seek assistance or declare an emergency in a deteriorating situation
  • PA.VIII.F.R2:

    Using available resources (e.g., automation, ATC, and flight deck planning aids)

Radio Communications, Navigation Systems/Facilities, and Radar Services Skills:

The applicant exhibits the skill to:
  • PA.VIII.F.S1:

    Maintain airplane control while selecting proper communications frequencies, identifying the appropriate facility, and managing navigation equipment
  • PA.VIII.F.S2:

    Comply with ATC instructions
  • PA.VIII.F.S3:



  • WAAS is a critical component of the FAA's strategic objective for a seamless satellite navigation system for civil aviation, improving capacity and safety
  • Remember, the FAA requests user reports on NAVAID outages
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