Advanced Technologies - Navigation Systems

Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS)

The Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) is a constellation of satellites providing a high-frequency signal that contains time and distance that is picked up by a receiver thereby. [Figure 1] The receiver that picks up multiple signals from different satellites is able to triangulate its position from these satellites.

Figure 1. A typical example (GNS 480) of a stand-alone GPS receiver and display

Three GNSSs exist today: the GPS, a United States system; the Russian GNSS (GLONASS); and Galileo, a European system.

  1. GLONASS is a network of 24 satellites that can be picked up by any GLONASS receiver, allowing the user to pinpoint their position.
  2. Galileo planned to be a network of 30 satellites that continuously transmit high-frequency radio signals containing time and distance data that can be picked up by a Galileo receiver with operational expectancy by 2013.
  3. The GPS came on line in 1992 with 24 satellites and today utilizes 30 satellites.

Global Positioning System (GPS)

The GPS is a satellite-based radio navigation system that broadcasts a signal that is used by receivers to determine precise position anywhere in the world. The receiver tracks multiple satellites and determines a measurement that is then used to determine the user location. [Figure 2]

Figure 2. Typical GPS satellite array

The Department of Defense (DOD) developed and deployed GPS as a space-based positioning, velocity, and time system. The DOD is responsible for operation of the GPS satellite constellation, and constantly monitors the satellites to ensure proper operation. The GPS system permits Earth-centered coordinates to be determined and provides aircraft position referenced to the DOD World Geodetic System of 1984 (WGS-84). Satellite navigation systems are unaffected by weather and provide global navigation coverage that fully meets the civil requirements for use as the primary means of navigation in oceanic airspace and certain remote areas. Properly certified GPS equipment may be used as a supplemental means of IFR navigation for domestic en route, terminal operations and certain IAPs. Navigational values, such as distance and bearing to a WP and groundspeed, are computed from the aircraft’s current position (latitude and longitude) and the location of the next WP. Course guidance is provided as a linear deviation from the desired track of a Great Circle route between defined WPs. GPS may not be approved for IFR use in other countries. Prior to its use, pilots should ensure that GPS is authorized by the appropriate countries.

GPS Components

GPS consists of three distinct functional elements: space, control, and user.

The space element consists of over 30 Navstar satellites. This group of satellites is called a constellation. The space element consists of 24 Navigation System using Timing and Ranging (NAVSTAR) satellites in 6 orbital planes. The satellites in each plane are spaced 60° apart for complete coverage and are located (nominally) at about 11,000 miles above the Earth. The planes are arranged so that there are always five satellites in view at any time on the Earth. Presently, there are at least 31 Block II/IIA/IIR and IIR-M satellites in orbit with the additional satellites representing replacement satellites (upgraded systems) and spares. Recently, the Air Force received funding for procurement of 31 Block IIF satellites. The GPS constellation broadcasts a pseudo-random code timing signal and data message that the aircraft equipment processes to obtain satellite position and status data. By knowing the precise location of each satellite and precisely matching timing with the atomic clocks on the satellites, the aircraft receiver/processor can accurately measure the time each signal takes to arrive at the receiver and, therefore, determine aircraft position.

The control element consists of a network of ground-based GPS monitoring and control stations that ensure the accuracy of satellite positions and their clocks. In its present form, it has five monitoring stations, three ground antennas, and a master control station.

The user element consists of antennas and receiver/processors on board the aircraft that provide positioning, velocity, and precise timing to the user. GPS equipment used while operating under IFR must meet the standards set forth in Technical Standard Order (TSO) C-129 (or equivalent); meet the airworthiness installation requirements; be “approved” for that type of IFR operation; and be operated in accordance with the applicable POH/AFM or flight manual supplement.

An updatable GPS database that supports the appropriate operations (e.g., en route, terminal, and instrument approaches) is required when operating under IFR. The aircraft GPS navigation database contains WPs from the geographic areas where GPS navigation has been approved for IFR operations. The pilot selects the desired WPs from the database and may add user-defined WPs for the flight.

Equipment approved in accordance with TSO C-115a, visual flight rules (VFR), and hand-held GPS systems do not meet the requirements of TSO C-129 and are not authorized for IFR navigation, instrument approaches, or as a principal instrument flight reference. During IFR operations, these units (TSO C-115a) may be considered only an aid to situational awareness.

Prior to GPS/WAAS IFR operation, the pilot must review appropriate NOTAMs and aeronautical information. This information is available on request from an flight service station (FSS). The FAA does provide NOTAMs to advise pilots of the status of the WAAS and level of service available.

Function of GPS

GPS operation is based on the concept of ranging and triangulation from a group of satellites in space that act as precise reference points. The receiver uses data from a minimum of four satellites above the mask angle (the lowest angle above the horizon at which it can use a satellite). The aircraft GPS receiver measures distance from a satellite using the travel time of a radio signal. Each satellite transmits a specific code, called a course/acquisition (CA) code, which contains information about satellite position, the GPS system time, and the health and accuracy of the transmitted data. Knowing the speed at which the signal traveled (approximately 186,000 miles per second) and the exact broadcast time, the distance traveled by the signal can be computed from the arrival time. The distance derived from this method of computing distance is called a pseudo-range because it is not a direct measurement of distance, but a measurement based on time. In addition to knowing the distance to a satellite, a receiver needs to know the satellite’s exact position in space, its ephemeris. Each satellite transmits information about its exact orbital location. The GPS receiver uses this information to establish the precise position of the satellite.

Using the calculated pseudo-range and position information supplied by the satellite, the GPS receiver/processor mathematically determines its position by triangulation from several satellites. The GPS receiver needs at least four satellites to yield a three-dimensional position (latitude, longitude, and altitude) and time solution. The GPS receiver computes navigational values (distance and bearing to a WP, groundspeed, etc.) by using the aircraft’s known latitude/longitude and referencing these to a database built into the receiver.

The GPS receiver verifies the integrity (usability) of the signals received from the GPS constellation through receiver autonomous integrity monitoring (RAIM) to determine if a satellite is providing corrupted information. RAIM needs a minimum of five satellites in view or four satellites and a barometric altimeter baro-aiding to detect an integrity anomaly. For receivers capable of doing so, RAIM needs six satellites in view (or five satellites with baro-aiding) to isolate a corrupt satellite signal and remove it from the navigation solution.

Generally, there are two types of RAIM messages. One type indicates that there are not enough satellites available to provide RAIM and another type indicates that the RAIM has detected a potential error that exceeds the limit for the current phase of flight. Without RAIM capability, the pilot has no assurance of the accuracy of the GPS position.

Aircraft using GPS navigation equipment under IFR for domestic en route, terminal operations, and certain IAPs, must be equipped with an approved and operational alternate means of navigation appropriate to the flight. The avionics necessary to receive all of the ground-based facilities appropriate for the route to the destination airport and any required alternate airport must be installed and operational. Ground-based facilities necessary for these routes must also be operational. Active monitoring of alternative navigation equipment is not required if the GPS receiver uses RAIM for integrity monitoring. Active monitoring of an alternate means of navigation is required when the RAIM capability of the GPS equipment is lost. In situations where the loss of RAIM capability is predicted to occur, the flight must rely on other approved equipment, delay departure, or cancel the flight.

GPS Substitution

IFR En Route and Terminal Operations GPS systems, certified for IFR en route and terminal operations, may be used as a substitute for ADF and DME receivers when conducting the following operations within the United States NAS.

  1. Determining the aircraft position over a DME fix. This includes en route operations at and above 24,000 feet mean sea level (MSL) (FL 240) when using GPS for navigation.
  2. Flying a DME arc.
  3. Navigating TO/FROM an NDB/compass locator.
  4. Determining the aircraft position over an NDB/ compass locator.
  5. Determining the aircraft position over a fix defined by an NDB/compass locator bearing crossing a VOR/ LOC course.
  6. Holding over an NDB/compass locator.

GPS Substitution for ADF or DME

Using GPS as a substitute for ADF or DME is subject to the following restrictions:

  1. This equipment must be installed in accordance with appropriate airworthiness installation requirements and operated within the provisions of the applicable POH/ AFM or supplement.
  2. The required integrity for these operations must be provided by at least en route RAIM or equivalent.
  3. WPs, fixes, intersections, and facility locations to be used for these operations must be retrieved from the GPS airborne database. The database must be current. If the required positions cannot be retrieved from the airborne database, the substitution of GPS for ADF and/ or DME is not authorized
  4. Procedures must be established for use when RAIM outages are predicted or occur. This may require the flight to rely on other approved equipment or require the aircraft to be equipped with operational NDB and/or DME receivers. Otherwise, the flight must be rerouted, delayed, canceled, or conducted under VFR.
  5. The CDI must be set to terminal sensitivity (1 NM) when tracking GPS course guidance in the terminal area.
  6. A non-GPS approach procedure must exist at the alternate airport when one is required. If the non-GPS approaches on which the pilot must rely require DME or ADF, the aircraft must be equipped with DME or ADF avionics as appropriate.
  7. Charted requirements for ADF and/or DME can be met using the GPS system, except for use as the principal instrument approach navigation source.
NOTE: The following provides guidance that is not specific to any particular aircraft GPS system. For specific system guidance, refer to the POH/AFM, or supplement, or contact the system manufacturer.

To Determine Aircraft Position Over a DME Fix:

  1. Verify aircraft GPS system integrity monitoring is functioning properly and indicates satisfactory integrity.
  2. If the fix is identified by a five-letter name that is contained in the GPS airborne database, select either the named fix as the active GPS WP or the facility establishing the DME fix as the active GPS WP. When using a facility as the active WP, the only acceptable facility is the DME facility that is charted as the one used to establish the DME fix. If this facility is not in the airborne database, it is not authorized for use.
  3. If the fix is identified by a five-letter name that is not contained in the GPS airborne database, or if the fix is not named, select the facility establishing the DME fix or another named DME fix as the active GPS WP.
  4. When selecting the named fix as the active GPS WP, a pilot is over the fix when the GPS system indicates the active WP.
  5. If selecting the DME providing facility as the active GPS WP, a pilot is over the fix when the GPS distance from the active WP equals the charted DME value, and the aircraft is established on the appropriate bearing or course.

To Fly a DME Arc:

  1. Verify aircraft GPS system integrity monitoring is functioning properly and indicates satisfactory integrity.
  2. Select from the airborne database the facility providing the DME arc as the active GPS WP. The only acceptable facility is the DME facility on which the arc is based. If this facility is not in your airborne database, you are not authorized to perform this operation.
  3. Maintain position on the arc by reference to the GPS distance instead of a DME readout.

To Navigate TO or FROM an NDB/Compass Locator:

  1. Verify aircraft GPS system integrity monitoring is functioning properly and indicates satisfactory integrity.
  2. Select the NDB/compass locator facility from the airborne database as the active WP. If the chart depicts the compass locator collocated with a fix of the same name, use of that fix as the active WP in place of the compass locator facility is authorized.
  3. Select and navigate on the appropriate course to or from the active WP.

To Determine Aircraft Position Over an NDB/ Compass Locator:


  1. Verify aircraft GPS system integrity monitoring is functioning properly and indicates satisfactory integrity.
  2. Select the NDB/compass locator facility from the airborne database. When using an NDB/compass locator, the facility must be charted and be in the airborne database. If the facility is not in the airborne database, pilots are not authorized to use a facility WP for this operation.
  3. A pilot is over the NDB/compass locator when the GPS system indicates arrival at the active WP. 

To Determine Aircraft Position Over a Fix Made up of an NDB/Compass Locator Bearing Crossing a VOR/LOC Course:

  1. Verify aircraft GPS system integrity monitoring is functioning properly and indicates satisfactory integrity.
  2. A fix made up by a crossing NDB/compass locator bearing is identified by a five-letter fix name. Pilots may select either the named fix or the NDB/compass locator facility providing the crossing bearing to establish the fix as the active GPS WP. When using an NDB/compass locator, that facility must be charted and be in the airborne database. If the facility is not in the airborne database, pilots are not authorized to use a facility WP for this operation.
  3. When selecting the named fix as the active GPS WP, pilot is over the fix when the GPS system indicates the pilot is at the WP.
  4. When selecting the NDB/compass locator facility as the active GPS WP, pilots are over the fix when the GPS bearing to the active WP is the same as the charted NDB/compass locator bearing for the fix flying the prescribed track from the non-GPS navigation source.

To Hold Over an NDB/Compass Locator:

  1. Verify aircraft GPS system integrity monitoring is functioning properly and indicates satisfactory integrity.
  2. Select the NDB/compass locator facility from the airborne database as the active WP. When using a facility as the active WP, the only acceptable facility is the NDB/compass locator facility which is charted. If this facility is not in the airborne database, its use is not authorized.
  3. Select nonsequencing (e.g., “HOLD” or “OBS”) mode and the appropriate course in accordance with the POH/AFM or supplement.
  4. Hold using the GPS system in accordance with the POH/AFM or supplement.

IFR Flight Using GPS

Preflight preparations should ensure that the GPS is properly installed and certified with a current database for the type of operation. The GPS operation must be conducted in accordance with the FAA-approved POH/AFM or flight manual supplement. Flightcrew members must be thoroughly familiar with the particular GPS equipment installed in the aircraft, the receiver operation manual, and the POH/AFM or flight manual supplement. Unlike ILS and VOR, the basic operation, receiver presentation to the pilot and some capabilities of the equipment can vary greatly. Due to these differences, operation of different brands or even models of the same brand of GPS receiver under IFR should not be attempted without thorough study of the operation of that particular receiver and installation. Using the equipment in flight under VFR conditions prior to attempting IFR operation allows for further familiarization.

Required preflight preparations should include checking NOTAMs relating to the IFR flight when using GPS as a supplemental method of navigation. GPS satellite outages are issued as GPS NOTAMs both domestically and internationally. Pilots may obtain GPS RAIM availability information for an airport by specifically requesting GPS aeronautical information from an FSS during preflight briefings. GPS RAIM aeronautical information can be obtained for a 3-hour period: the estimated time of arrival (ETA), and 1 hour before to 1 hour after the ETA hour, or a 24-hour time frame for a specific airport. FAA briefers provide RAIM information for a period of 1 hour before to 1 hour after the ETA, unless a specific timeframe is requested by the pilot. If flying a published GPS departure, the pilot should also request a RAIM prediction for the departure airport. Some GPS receivers have the capability to predict RAIM availability. The pilot should also ensure that the required underlying ground-based navigation facilities and related aircraft equipment appropriate to the route of flight, terminal operations, instrument approaches for the destination, and alternate airports/heliports are operational for the ETA. If the required ground-based facilities and equipment are not available, the flight should be rerouted, rescheduled, canceled, or conducted under VFR.

Except for programming and retrieving information from the GPS receiver, planning the flight is accomplished in a similar manner to conventional NAVAIDs. Departure WP, DP, route, STAR, desired approach, IAF, and destination airport are entered into the GPS receiver according to the manufacturer’s instructions. During preflight, additional information may be entered for functions such as ETA, fuel planning, winds aloft, etc.

When the GPS receiver is turned on, it begins an internal process of test and initialization. When the receiver is initialized, the user develops the route by selecting a WP or series of WPs, verifies the data, and selects the active flight plan. This procedure varies widely among receivers made by different manufacturers. GPS is a complex system, offering little standardization between receiver models. It is the pilot’s responsibility to be familiar with the operation of the equipment in the aircraft.

The GPS receiver provides navigational values such as track, bearing, groundspeed, and distance. These are computed from the aircraft’s present latitude and longitude to the location of the next WP. Course guidance is provided between WPs. The pilot has the advantage of knowing the aircraft’s actual track over the ground. As long as track and bearing to the WP are matched up (by selecting the correct aircraft heading), the aircraft is going directly to the WP.

GPS Instrument Approaches

There is a mixture of GPS overlay approaches (approaches with “or GPS” in the title) and GPS stand-alone approaches in the United States.

NOTE: GPS instrument approach operations outside the United States must be authorized by the appropriate country authority.

While conducting these IAPs, ground-based NAVAIDs are not required to be operational and associated aircraft avionics need not be installed, operational, turned on, or monitored; however, monitoring backup navigation systems is always recommended when available.

Pilots should have a basic understanding of GPS approach procedures and practice GPS IAPs under visual meteorological conditions (VMC) until thoroughly proficient with all aspects of their equipment (receiver and installation) prior to attempting flight in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC). [Figure 3]

Figure 3. A GPS stand-alone approach

All IAPs must be retrievable from the current GPS database supplied by the manufacturer or other FAA-approved source. Flying point to point on the approach does not assure compliance with the published approach procedure. The proper RAIM sensitivity is not available and the CDI sensitivity does not automatically change to 0.3 NM. Manually setting CDI sensitivity does not automatically change the RAIM sensitivity on some receivers. Some existing nonprecision approach procedures cannot be coded for use with GPS and are not available as overlays.

GPS approaches are requested and approved by ATC using the GPS title, such as “GPS RWY 24” or “RNAV RWY 35.” Using the manufacturer’s recommended procedures, the desired approach and the appropriate IAF are selected from the GPS receiver database. Pilots should fly the full approach from an initial approach waypoint (IAWP) or feeder fix unless specifically cleared otherwise. Randomly joining an approach at an intermediate fix does not ensure terrain clearance. When an approach has been loaded in the flight plan, GPS receivers give an “arm” annunciation 30 NM straight line distance from the airport/heliport reference point.

The approach mode should be “armed” when within 30 NM distance so the receiver changes from en route CDI (±5 NM) and RAIM (±2 NM) sensitivity to ±1 NM terminal sensitivity. Where the IAWP is within 30 NM, a CDI sensitivity change occurs once the approach mode is armed and the aircraft is within 30 NM. Where the IAWP is beyond the 30 NM point, CDI sensitivity does not change until the aircraft is within 30 NM even if the approach is armed earlier. Feeder route obstacle clearance is predicated on the receiver CDI and RAIM being in terminal CDI sensitivity within 30 NM of the airport/heliport reference point; therefore, the receiver should always be armed no later than the 30 NM annunciation.

Pilots should pay particular attention to the exact operation of their GPS receivers for performing holding patterns and in the case of overlay approaches, operations such as procedure turns. These procedures may require manual intervention by the pilot to stop the sequencing of WPs by the receiver and to resume automatic GPS navigation sequencing once the maneuver is complete. The same WP may appear in the route of flight more than once and consecutively (e.g., IAWP, final approach waypoint (FAWP), missed approach waypoint (MAWP) on a procedure turn). Care must be exercised to ensure the receiver is sequenced to the appropriate WP for the segment of the procedure being flown, especially if one or more fly-over WPs are skipped (e.g., FAWP rather than IAWP if the procedure turn is not flown). The pilot may need to sequence past one or more fly-overs of the same WP in order to start GPS automatic sequencing at the proper place in the sequence of WPs. When receiving vectors to final, most receiver operating manuals suggest placing the receiver in the nonsequencing mode on the FAWP and manually setting the course. This provides an extended final approach course in cases where the aircraft is vectored onto the final approach course outside of any existing segment that is aligned with the runway. Assigned altitudes must be maintained until established on a published segment of the approach. Required altitudes at WPs outside the FAWP or step-down fixes must be considered. Calculating the distance to the FAWP may be required in order to descend at the proper location.

When within 2 NM of the FAWP with the approach mode armed, the approach mode switches to active, which results in RAIM and CDI sensitivity changing to the approach mode. Beginning 2 NM prior to the FAWP, the full scale CDI sensitivity changes smoothly from ±1 NM to ±0.3 NM at the FAWP. As sensitivity changes from ±1 NM to ±0.3 NM approaching the FAWP, and the CDI not centered, the corresponding increase in CDI displacement may give the impression the aircraft is moving further away from the intended course even though it is on an acceptable intercept heading. If digital track displacement information (cross-track error) is available in the approach mode, it may help the pilot remain position oriented in this situation.

Being established on the final approach course prior to the beginning of the sensitivity change at 2 NM helps prevent problems in interpreting the CDI display during ramp-down. Requesting or accepting vectors, which causes the aircraft to intercept the final approach course within 2 NM of the FAWP, is not recommended.

Incorrect inputs into the GPS receiver are especially critical during approaches. In some cases, an incorrect entry can cause the receiver to leave the approach mode. Overriding an automatically selected sensitivity during an approach cancels the approach mode annunciation. If the approach mode is not armed by 2 NM prior to the FAWP, the approach mode does not become active at 2 NM prior to the FAWP and the equipment will flag. In these conditions, the RAIM and CDI sensitivity do not ramp down, and the pilot should not descend to minimum descent altitude (MDA) but fly to the MAWP and execute a missed approach. The approach active annunciator and/or the receiver should be checked to ensure the approach mode is active prior to the FAWP.

A GPS missed approach requires pilot action to sequence the receiver past the MAWP to the missed approach portion of the procedure. The pilot must be thoroughly familiar with the activation procedure for the particular GPS receiver installed in the aircraft and must initiate appropriate action after the MAWP. Activating the missed approach prior to the MAWP causes CDI sensitivity to change immediately to terminal (±1 NM) sensitivity, and the receiver continues to navigate to the MAWP. The receiver does not sequence past the MAWP. Turns should not begin prior to the MAWP. If the missed approach is not activated, the GPS receiver displays an extension of the inbound final approach course and the along track distance (ATD) increases from the MAWP until it is manually sequenced after crossing the MAWP.

Missed approach routings in which the first track is via a course rather than direct to the next WP require additional action by the pilot to set the course. Being familiar with all of the required inputs is especially critical during this phase of flight.

Departures and Instrument Departure Procedures (DPs)

The GPS receiver must be set to terminal (±1 NM) CDI sensitivity and the navigation routes contained in the database in order to fly published IFR charted departures and DPs. Terminal RAIM should be provided automatically by the receiver. (Terminal RAIM for departure may not be available unless the WPs are part of the active flight plan rather than proceeding direct to the first destination.) Certain segments of a DP may require some manual intervention by the pilot, especially when radar vectored to a course or required to intercept a specific course to a WP. The database may not contain all of the transitions or departures from all runways and some GPS receivers do not contain DPs in the database. It is necessary that helicopter procedures be flown at 70 knots or less since helicopter departure procedures and missed approaches use a 20:1 obstacle clearance surface (OCS), which is double the fixed-wing OCS. Turning areas are based on this speed also. Missed approach routings in which the first track is via a course rather than direct to the next WP require additional action by the pilot to set the course. Being familiar with all of the required inputs is especially critical during this phase of flight.

GPS Errors

Normally, with 30 satellites in operation, the GPS constellation is expected to be available continuously worldwide. Whenever there are fewer than 24 operational satellites, GPS navigational capability may not be available at certain geographic locations. Loss of signals may also occur in valleys surrounded by high terrain, and any time the aircraft’s GPS antenna is “shadowed” by the aircraft’s structure (e.g., when the aircraft is banked).

Certain receivers, transceivers, mobile radios, and portable receivers can cause signal interference. Some VHF transmissions may cause “harmonic interference.” Pilots can isolate the interference by relocating nearby portable receivers, changing frequencies, or turning off suspected causes of the interference while monitoring the receiver’s signal quality data page.

GPS position data can be affected by equipment characteristics and various geometric factors, which typically cause errors of less than 100 feet. Satellite atomic clock inaccuracies, receiver/processors, signals reflected from hard objects (multi-path), ionospheric and tropospheric delays, and satellite data transmission errors may cause small position errors or momentary loss of the GPS signal.

System Status

The status of GPS satellites is broadcast as part of the data message transmitted by the GPS satellites. GPS status information is also available by means of the United States Coast Guard navigation information service: (703) 313-5907 or on the internet at www.navcen.uscg.gov. Additionally, satellite status is available through the NOTAM system.

The GPS receiver verifies the integrity (usability) of the signals received from the GPS constellation through RAIM to determine if a satellite is providing corrupted information.

At least one satellite, in addition to those required for navigation, must be in view for the receiver to perform the RAIM function; thus, RAIM needs a minimum of five satellites in view or four satellites and a barometric altimeter (baro-aiding) to detect an integrity anomaly. For receivers capable of doing so, RAIM needs six satellites in view (or five satellites with baro-aiding) to isolate the corrupt satellite signal and remove it from the navigation solution.

RAIM messages vary somewhat between receivers; however, there are two most commonly used types. One type indicates that there are not enough satellites available to provide RAIM integrity monitoring and another type indicates that the RAIM integrity monitor has detected a potential error that exceeds the limit for the current phase of flight. Without RAIM capability, the pilot has no assurance of the accuracy of the GPS position.

Selective Availability. Selective availability is a method by which the accuracy of GPS is intentionally degraded. This feature is designed to deny hostile use of precise GPS positioning data. Selective availability was discontinued on May 1, 2000, but many GPS receivers are designed to assume that selective availability is still active. New receivers may take advantage of the discontinuance of selective availability based on the performance values in ICAO Annex 10 and do not need to be designed to operate outside of that performance.

GPS Familiarization

Pilots should practice GPS approaches under VMC until thoroughly proficient with all aspects of their equipment (receiver and installation) prior to attempting flight by IFR in IMC. Some of the tasks which the pilot should practice are:

  1. Utilizing the RAIM prediction function;
  2. Inserting a DP into the flight plan, including setting terminal CDI sensitivity, if required, and the conditions under which terminal RAIM is available for departure (some receivers are not DP or STAR capable);
  3. Programming the destination airport;
  4. Programming and flying the overlay approaches (especially procedure turns and arcs);
  5. Changing to another approach after selecting an approach;
  6. Programming and flying “direct” missed approaches;
  7. Programming and flying “routed” missed approaches;
  8. Entering, flying, and exiting holding patterns, particularly on overlay approaches with a second WP in the holding pattern;
  9. Programming and flying a “route” from a holding pattern;
  10. Programming and flying an approach with radar vectors to the intermediate segment;
  11. Indication of the actions required for RAIM failure both before and after the FAWP; and
  12. Programming a radial and distance from a VOR (often used in departure instructions).

Differential Global Positioning Systems (DGPS)

Differential global positioning systems (DGPS) are designed to improve the accuracy of GNSS by measuring changes in variables to provide satellite positioning corrections.

Because multiple receivers receiving the same set of satellites produce similar errors, a reference receiver placed at a known location can compute its theoretical position accurately and can compare that value to the measurements provided by the navigation satellite signals. The difference in measurement between the two signals is an error that can be corrected by providing a reference signal correction.

As a result of this differential input accuracy of the satellite system can be increased to meters. The Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) and Local Area Augmentation System (LAAS) are examples of differential global positioning systems.

Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS)

The WAAS is designed to improve the accuracy, integrity, and availability of GPS signals. WAAS allows GPS to be used as the aviation navigation system from takeoff through Category I precision approaches. ICAO has defined Standards for satellite-based augmentation systems (SBAS), and Japan and Europe are building similar systems that are planned to be interoperable with WAAS: EGNOS, the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay System, and MSAS, the Japanese Multifunctional Transport Satellite (MTSAT) Satellite-based Augmentation System. The result will be a worldwide seamless navigation capability similar to GPS but with greater accuracy, availability, and integrity.

Unlike traditional ground-based navigation aids, WAAS will cover a more extensive service area in which surveyed wide-area ground reference stations are linked to the WAAS network. Signals from the GPS satellites are monitored by these stations to determine satellite clock and ephemeris corrections. Each station in the network relays the data to a wide-area master station where the correction information is computed. A correction message is prepared and uplinked to a geostationary satellite (GEO) via a ground uplink and then broadcast on the same frequency as GPS to WAAS receivers within the broadcast coverage area. [Figure 4]

Figure 4. WAAS satellite representation

In addition to providing the correction signal, WAAS provides an additional measurement to the aircraft receiver, improving the availability of GPS by providing, in effect, an additional GPS satellite in view. The integrity of GPS is improved through real-time monitoring, and the accuracy is improved by providing differential corrections to reduce errors. [Figure 5] As a result, performance improvement is sufficient to enable approach procedures with GPS/WAAS glidepaths. At this time the FAA has completed installation of 25 wide area ground reference systems, two master stations, and four ground uplink stations.

Figure 5. WAAS provides performance enhancement for GPS approach procedures through real-time monitoring

General Requirements

WAAS avionics must be certified in accordance with TSO-C145A, Airborne Navigation Sensors Using the GPS Augmented by the WAAS; or TSO-146A for stand-alone systems. GPS/WAAS operation must be conducted in accordance with the FAA-approved aircraft flight manual (AFM) and flight manual supplements. Flight manual supplements must state the level of approach procedure that the receiver supports.

Instrument Approach Capabilities

WAAS receivers support all basic GPS approach functions and provide additional capabilities with the key benefit to generate an electronic glidepath, independent of ground equipment or barometric aiding. This eliminates several problems, such as cold temperature effects, incorrect altimeter setting, or lack of a local altimeter source, and allows approach procedures to be built without the cost of installing ground stations at each airport. A new class of approach procedures, which provide vertical guidance requirements for precision approaches, has been developed to support satellite navigation use for aviation applications.

These new procedures called Approach with Vertical Guidance (APV) include approaches such as the LNAV/ VNAV procedures presently being flown with barometric vertical navigation.

Local Area Augmentation System (LAAS)

LAAS is a ground-based augmentation system that uses a GPS-reference facility located on or in the vicinity of the airport being serviced. This facility has a reference receiver that measures GPS satellite pseudo-range and timing and retransmits the signal. Aircraft landing at LAAS-equipped airports are able to conduct approaches to Category I level and above for properly equipped aircraft. [Figures 6 and 7]

Figure 6. LAAS representation

Figure 7. The LAAS system working with GPS satellites, reference receivers and radio transmitters which are located on or in the vicinity of the airport

Inertial Navigation System (INS)

Inertial Navigation System (INS) is a system that navigates precisely without any input from outside of the aircraft. It is fully self-contained. The INS is initialized by the pilot, who enters into the system the exact location of the aircraft on the ground before the flight. The INS is also programmed with WPs along the desired route of flight.

INS Components

INS is considered a stand-alone navigation system, especially when more than one independent unit is onboard. The airborne equipment consists of an accelerometer to measure acceleration—which, when integrated with time, gives velocity—and gyros to measure direction.

Later versions of the INS, called inertial reference systems (IRS), utilize laser gyros and more powerful computers; therefore, the accelerometer mountings no longer need to be kept level and aligned with true north. The computer system can handle the added workload of dealing with the computations necessary to correct for gravitational and directional errors. Consequently, these newer systems are sometimes called strap down systems, as the accelerometers and gyros are strapped down to the airframe rather than being mounted on a structure that stays fixed with respect to the horizon and true north.

INS Errors

The principal error associated with INS is degradation of position with time. INS computes position by starting with accurate position input which is changed continuously as accelerometers and gyros provide speed and direction inputs. Both accelerometers and gyros are subject to very small errors; as time passes, those errors probably accumulate.

While the best INS/IRS display errors of 0.1 to 0.4 NM after flights across the North Atlantic of 4 to 6 hours, smaller and less expensive systems are being built that show errors of 1 to 2 NM per hour. This accuracy is more than sufficient for a navigation system that can be combined with and updated by GPS. The synergy of a navigation system consisting of an INS/IRS unit in combination with a GPS resolves the errors and weaknesses of both systems. GPS is accurate all the time it is working but may be subject to short and periodic outages.

INS is made more accurate because it is continually updated and continues to function with good accuracy if the GPS has moments of lost signal.

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