FAA approval for LAAS not expected until 2002: Pelorus

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Federal Aviation Administration approval for localised satellite-based precision landing systems is expected to be delayed until at least 2002, according to the manufacturer leading the development effort.

The local area augmentation system (LAAS) is intended to replace the instrument landing system (ILS) as the primary precision landing system at US airports. Aircraft using Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite signals for navigation will receive additional signals from LAAS ground stations during final approach to improve accuracy and reliability, hopefully permitting approaches down to Category III minima.

Honeywell and Pelorus jointly developed the first commercial-use satellite-based landing system, the SLS-2000, which began limited operations two years ago. The Hoenywell/Pelorus SLS-2000 system will form the foundation of a final public-use LAAS - designated SLS-3000 - which will be fully compliant with ICAO standards.

The FAA is prioritising the acquisition and deployment of LAAS, and is planning to buy more systems than the 140 originally expected. The US Congress will finalise the FAA budget in September, and is expected to approve an increase in funding for the LAAS programme.

However, the FAA is revising its original specifications for LAAS ground stations in the wake of "significant" feedback. It expects to publish the amended specification by the end of September.

Honeywell/Pelorus warns that the new specifications "will result in additional software and hardware requirements for the ground station" of the team's new SLS-3000.

It adds: "While the indication of increased priority for SLS from Congress and the FAA is welcome confirmation of the FAA's intentions to implement SLS and procure more systems than originally announced, the time-lines will be longer than previously anticipated.

"Latest indications suggest that further delays could be experienced in the timing of type approval for the full, public-use SLS-3000."

The manufacturing team had expected the FAA to begin purchasing systems next year, following type approval. The team says it has revised this estimate to early 2002.

Around a dozen airports are presently operating SLS-2000 systems. Frankfurt Main, Memphis and Seattle-Tacoma airports are the latest to order the technology; each will have their installations upgraded to SLS-3000 configurations once type approval is granted.

In addition to sales of the satellite-based systems, orders for conventional navaids and establishment of a new Australian subsidiary have boosted Calgary-based Pelorus' revenues to C$4 million for the year to 31 May, seven times last year's figure. The manufacturer recorded a modest net income of C$76,600 compared with a loss last year of C$3.2 million.