Guy Norris/SEATTLE

A federally funded, independent review board is being formed to evaluate the US Federal Aviation Administration's ailing Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) satellite-based navigation plan, as a delay in implementation of more than two years threatens to engulf the programme.

A revised schedule on the introduction of initial elements of WAAS is expected by the fourth quarter, says FAA director of CNS/ATM (communications, navigation, surveillance/air traffic management), Carl McCullough.

The review board, which forms "a sort of sanity check" for WAAS, says McCullough, is expected to include Brad Parkinson - a Stanford University scientist acknowledged as the inventor of the global positioning system (GPS).

The WAAS, which will allow the GPS to be used as a primary means of navigation from take-off to Category 1 precision approach, was originally due to be commissioned for initial (Phase 1) use in the third quarter of this year. "Integrity is the show-stopper issue we are facing with WAAS today," says McCullough, who adds that the FAA is "sparing no expense" to bring in expertise to help the agency and Raytheon, its prime industry contractor.

Most of the specialists for the effort are being recruited from Ohio State and Stanford universities as well as the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

McCullough says the review forms part of the administration's efforts to "regain the faith of US Congress and the flying public to do what we said we were going to do". Interim recommendations from the board will deal with the nearer-term implementation of vertical and lateral (VNAV/ LNAV) navigation elements of the WAAS, while the global landing system capability is expected to be a longer-term proposition.

Initial recommendations for the revised timetable, which could call for VNAV/LNAV commissioning in 2002/2003, could come as early as September.

• The FAA plans to accelerate certification of a Category 1 local area augmentation system (LAAS) by about a year to late 2001 if it can secure government funding in imminent budget discussions.

The move, which depends on at least $75 million in funding from the US Senate, could help eliminate an interim LAAS Cat 1 step which is planned for certification in the last quarter of next year.

The extra cash would allow the development of additional monitoring of ground stations which would take the system up to a proposed FAA LAAS Cat 1 standard now earmarked for certification in the fourth quarter of 2002.

Certification to more stringent Cat 2/3 standards is not expected until 2004/5, says Honeywell, which is competing with a Raytheon-led industry team for a production contract which is expected to cover as many as 143 systems.

Source: Flight International