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The following is response from my bro-inlaw, radar, plane tracker kinda guy. Works in CA and says..."No Problem!"

Any rebuttals?

Hi there! The FAA has a new system called DSR, replacement radar display & computer. Testing has already been done & system will be in place well befoe y2k & airlines will know all about it. There'll always be those dooms-dayers who'll say everything will fall apart at that switchover instant, so I don't know! Thanks for asking, and if you ever want to come down & see operations at the Center, just ask. I'd be glad to show you how it works.

-- Mark Hillyard (foster@inreach.com), January 07, 1999


Mark, is this the system your bro-in-law is talking about?

FAA Delays Air Navigation System

MoVe Immediate

-- MVI (vtoc@aol.com), January 07, 1999.

One of the amazing stories of Y2K is the FAA and their 3 Stooges performance to date. The media has totally missed the boat on this story. For your brother-in-law, give him this info:

I've left out the fact that the FAA radars upgraded over the past year to Y2K compliant status failed and they had to go back to the old system.

-- RD. ->H (drherr@erols.com), January 07, 1999.

Is that the same system that they were trying out here in DC at Dulles a few months ago? the one that lost all data on the aircraft the controlers were working with?

just wonderin' Arlin Adams

-- Arlin H. Adams (ahadams@ix.netcom.com), January 07, 1999.

Mark -- how did your brother-in-law find out what he told you about FAA's new system?

-- Tom Carey (tomcarey@mindspring.com), January 08, 1999.

Hey Mark

Is DSR Solar powered ??

-- Mike (mickle2@aol.com), January 08, 1999.

Tom, My bro-inlaw works for the FAA in CA. I simply asked him if they would be ready for y2k and that's is his email answer above. I didn't ask for any proof, but he did offer to take me on a tour of the station.

-- Mark Hillyard (foster@inreach.com), January 08, 1999.

When your there, see if you can get the straight scoop on why the FAA had miserable reliability and performance failures after they recently put in new programs/updated programs at (I believe this list is complete) Chicago, San Diego, Denver, and Washington National.

Best of my knowledge, all sites had to return to the "old" system to maintain clearance margins between planes.

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw GA) (cook.r@csaatl.com), January 08, 1999.

GPS is stable? -- Is this a good direction?

An Upgrade For Pilots

An Upgrade For Pilots
Aircraft Navigation System to Get GPS Enhancement

The FAA's new WAAS system will give pilots a check on the existing GPS satellite system. Planes will receive signals directly from the GPS satellites and be able to verify the accuracy of those signals, thanks to a network of ground reference stations. (ABCNEWS.com)

By Bill Brewster, ABCNEWS.com, January 9, 1999

The worldwide navigation system that thousands of pilots depend upon every day is completely outdated. And finally, the Federal Aviation Administration has acknowledged that its time for an upgrade.

Its still safe and reliable, but todays pilots are navigating with 1960s technology, says Carl McCullough, a former Navy pilot who now leads a Global Positioning System (GPS) team for the Federal Aviation Administration.

Originally designed only for military use, GPS remained a tool for well-funded researchers and surveyors until recently. Now, hand-held models sell in sporting-goods stores for around $150, and are used by everyone from boaters to hikers  and even private pilots.

In fact, GPS is extremely popular among weekend fliers, but the FAA currently certifies it only for use as a supplemental means of navigation.

Mistakes Dont Cut It
The current GPS network consists of 24 satellites that orbit the Earth in six teams of four; each quartet follows A GPS satellite (FAA)the same orbital plane every time around. To read your position, you must be in the sightline of at least four satellites  the GPS receiver then spits out your longitude, latitude, altitude and velocity.

For commercial aviation, FAA regulations would require a fifth satellite to fix integrity, which McCullough defines as the ability of the receiver to detect when the signal from one satellite is inaccurate, distorted or off the air. Right now the U.S. air route map is filled with gaps where planes cant get five good signals all the time.

And though the current system gives pilots excellent readings most of the time, any GPS satellite will occasionally send faulty signals. If five good satellites arent in view at the same time, the pilot has no way to correct for those errors. A reading of Arctic latitude while hiking in Costa Rica might make a backpacker laugh; in the cockpit of a jumbo airliner it wouldnt be funny.

Eventual Goal: Free Flight
To solve those problems, the FAA is introducing a new Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS), which will boost the accuracy of GPS to the standards required for civil aviation. After successful tests in Iceland and Chile in late 1998, WAAS will be available for flights using visual flight rules (in which pilots depend on their eyes instead of instruments) in the middle of this year. An early version of the system is currently scheduled to be certified for instrument flying in late 2000.

FAA implementation manager John Augustine says the goal is for the system to be certified so that pilots can fly with WAAS avionics as the only navigation system in the cockpit. That goal is at least 20 years in the future; by that time Augustine hopes that all current GPS satellites will have been upgraded for increased signal power, and the government will have issued a second GPS frequency for civil use only. (Right now, the only GPS frequency is controlled by the military, which often jams it to degrade the accuracy to 100 yards  not the 20 feet necessary to land an airplane.)

The final iteration of the program will be free flight, where pilots will be able to choose their own speed, altitude and route, instead of following a rigid flight plan filed with air traffic controllers. Satellites will relay the locations of all planes in the air to a computer in every cockpit so that pilots can make adjustments along the way. Air traffic controllers on the ground would essentially monitor the skies, intervening only if there was problem with systems going down or two planes getting too close to each other.

Two Problems
ABCNEWS aviation analyst John Nance, who is also an airline captain for a major West Coast carrier, says that while GPS is obviously a renaissance in navigation, the ambitious WAAS program has two major problems.

First, GPS satellites sometimes go down; and backup systems could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per plane. Second, like many pilots, Nance thinks the FAA is taking too much air traffic control responsibility out of human hands and giving it to computers.

Nevertheless, most of the airline industry is on board with WAAS. Pilots believe in it. GPS reduces the workload of air traffic controllers and lets them spend more time thinking ahead rather than being traffic cops for airplanes. Most airline execs recognize GPS as the future of airspace navigation.

Private pilots will be beta-testing the WAAS system in a few months. But dont expect to hear your pilot talking about the miracle of GPS navigation the next time you get on a 757. The few GPS receivers currently installed in commercial cockpits dont pick up WAAS signals. Nav system manufacturers may be able to graft the new technology onto existing receivers, but for the most part the system will only be available to future generations of commercial aircraft that have the required receivers built in.

How the WAAS Works
The current aviation navigation system, called VOR for variable omni-range, is made up of a network of hundreds of ground stations, one group of which gives readings on direction while the other gives readings on distance. This network was approved as the international standard for navigation in 1947. After filing a flight plan with air traffic controllers, pilots fly point to point over a series of beacons located along heavily trafficked air routes.

GPS is already popular with non-airline pilots because its easy to use and understand, and it eliminates the need to fly over VOR beacons. But the FAA currently certifies GPS only for use as a supplemental means of navigation because of problems with accuracy and availability.

The FAAs new WAAS system enhances the existing GPS satellite system with a network of 25 ground reference stations, two master stations in Leesburg, Va., and Palmdale, Calif., and two new geostationary satellites  ones that always stay in a fixed position over the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts of the United States.

The 25 reference stations will collect signals from the GPS network about their own fixed positions. The data will be forwarded to the master stations, which will compare the information to the actual positions of the reference stations, thus weeding out any bad satellite signals.

The master stations will then upload any necessary correction algorithms to the two geostationary satellites, at least one of which will be in the sightline of any plane flying over the United States. The two satellites then relay the corrections directly to the pilots receiver, which displays the corrected position of the aircraft. The FAA hopes that, after some software improvements and the addition of necessary hardware, WAAS will be the primary navigation system for pilots all over the world.

"...the FAA is taking too much air traffic control responsibility out of human hands and giving it to computers."

Think they'll tweak their plans after 2000?

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-- Leska (allaha@earthlink.net), January 09, 1999.

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