FAA Approves 1st U.S. Ground Based Augmentation System

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced the approval of Honeywell’s Smartpath Precision Landing System, clearing the way for increased safety and efficiency at airports by providing precise navigation service based on the global positioning system (GPS). The first U.S.-approved system is located in Memphis, TN and will become operational early next year.

“The approval of Honeywell’s system marks the successful completion of a partnership between the FAA and Airservices Australia to build and certify a ground based augmentation system (GBAS),” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. “We expect GBAS to become an asset to airports around the world.” Airservices Australia is expected to approve their system soon at Sydney Airport, Australia.

GBAS augments the GPS to provide precision approach guidance to all qualifying runways at an airport. It monitors the GPS signals to detect errors and augment accuracy by transmitting correction messages to aircraft via local radio broadcast. GBAS will initially supplement the legacy Instrument Landing Systems currently used at airports.

The FAA’s NextGen Implementation Plan identifies GBAS as an enabler for descent and approach operations to increase capacity at crowded airports. The Honeywell system is approved for precision approach operations down to 200 feet above the surface. GBAS will be improved over the next few years to guide an aircraft down to the runway surface to support zero-visibility operations and provide precise positioning service to enable performance-based navigation, area navigation (RNAV) and required navigation performance (RNP) operations.

RNAV enables aircraft to fly on any desired flight path within the coverage of ground or spaced-based navigation aids, within the limits of the capability of the self-contained systems, or a combination of both capabilities. As such, RNAV aircraft have better access and flexibility for point-to-point operations. RNP is RNAV with the addition of an onboard performance monitoring and alerting capability.