The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of US took a step in the direction of satellite-based navigation last week when it allowed some airliners to use their GPSs to find their way across the country instead of flying routes defined by ground-based radio aids. Seven air route traffic control centers began accepting point-to-point air navigation flight plans for airliners using the high-level airways. By getting the high-level traffic off the increasingly crowded airways, the new system will allow pilots a lot more flexibility in avoiding weather and resolving potential conflicts and will also open up more potential routes.
According to Government Computer News, the new system lays out a grid of waypoints that pilots can use to plan a route. “By laying out a grid and providing way points, you’re essentially freeing the pilot to fly satellite-based area navigation or RNAV,” FAA spokesman John Timmerman said in a report for the FAA’s Web site. At first, only the highest flight levels will be used for the airspace reorganization but it will gradually migrate to the lower altitudes “as technology allows.”