Horizon starts WAAS roll-out on Q400s

Washington DC
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US regional operator Horizon Air has begun scheduled service using the wide area augmentation system (WAAS), making Horizon the first US Bombardier Q400 operator to use the technology in commercial service.

WAAS provides augmentation information to GPS receivers to enhance the accuracy and reliability of position estimates; WAAS also enables aircraft to fly localiser performance with vertical guidance (LPV).

Horizon began flying one WAAS-equipped Q400 on 30 December, and the carrier expects to operate more aircraft with WAAS through a partnership with the US FAA.

The airline will equip six more turboprops with WAAS during the first quarter, Horizon director of flight operations standards and training Perry Solmonson says. Solmonson adds the work takes about eight hours to complete and can be done overnight.

Through its partnership with Horizon, FAA is paying for services to support the collection of operational data to measure the benefits of WAAS, and to evaluate any operational issues regarding the use of WAAS on the Q400, FAA WAAS programme manager Deborah Lawrence says.

"The data will be used to help validate the business case for using WAAS equipped aircraft. Data will be used to assess operational and economic costs and environmental benefits provided by WAAS that can be applied to the broader air carrier community," she says.

Solmonson says he would like to equip Horizon's 33 other Q400s with WAAS, and aims to use flight data from the seven equipped aircraft to justify the investment.

His interest in WAAS lies in the fact that the technology is more robust and reliable than GPS, allows for more direct flight plans and requires the aircraft to carry less fuel, Solmonson says.

WAAS-equipped aircraft may also be able to land in inclement weather or other conditions in which ILS approaches are not an option, such as during a power outage at an airport, he adds.