1983 Historic GPS Flight Hinted at Today’s Innovations
   Article Title Page 0.767507002801

Date manufactured: 1996

Period/Dates when in use: 1996 paper describing 1983 Paris Air Show Demonstration


In 1983, a GPS technology demonstration flight was conducted from Cedar Rapids, IA to the Paris Air Show in Le Bourget, France. The goal was to perform an early demonstration of the application of GPS to civil aviation, an application that is ubiquitous today, but only beginning to be explored at that time. GPS was used to provide flight guidance for the trans-Atlantic flight terminating in a pre-determined taxi route to a parking point. Both a military code receiver and a civil code receiver using rudimentary differential techniques were demonstrated with the route guidance derived from the GPS position and velocity information integrated into the co-pilots displays. The following article, originally published in 1996, has been placed in the Institute of Navigation Virtual Museum (http://www.ion.org/museum/ ) to document that 1983 flight to the Paris Air Show.

The article, “1983 Historic GPS Flight Hinted at Today’s Innovations,” was published in GPS Solutions, Vol. 1, No. 4, pp. 13-21, 1996, and is presented with the permission of Springer Science+Business Media. (Link to the journal “GPS Solutions,” http://www.springer.com/earth+sciences+and+geography/geophysics/journal/10291 ) It provides an historical account of the preparation, execution, and results of the stop-and-go demonstration flight which took almost 4 days due to the sparse availability of satellites at that early time in GPS history.

The goal of that demonstration was to navigate an aircraft from Cedar Rapids, Iowa to the Paris Air Show in LeBourget, France. The trip was broken up into 5 segments, each only about 3-4 hours in length, as that was the length of the navigation windows formed by the only 6 satellites in orbit at that time. At the end of the transatlantic trip, taxiing and parking of the aircraft were accomplished using rudimentary, and previously undemonstrated, differential techniques. Four key capabilities of the system were demonstrated:

  • Transatlantic navigation
  • Increased Accuracy with the use of differential techniques
  • Accurate land navigation and positioning
  • Effectiveness of GPS as a commercial aircraft navigation system

Item History:

The demonstration was significant in that it demonstrated some of the unique capabilities of the developing GPS system. It provided tangible insight into some of the commercial applications possible with the system being pursued for primarily military applications at the time. The 1996 article provides some comments about that significance of the 1983 flight demonstration with the benefit of 13 years of perspective.

Now, with an almost 20 additional years of perspective, reading the article brings thoughts more of the historical impact of technology advancements in general than the impact of GPS in particular.

This article tells a tale of a rudimentary technology demonstration, not that long ago, that shows us how rapidly and pervasively technology can affect our world and our lives. History has shown us that technology development has profoundly shaped our world in the past, and deserves our attention for the future.

So with that in mind, enjoy this one tale from the rich history of GPS.

Supporting documentation:
Introduction to GPS Article (20480 bytes)

1983 Historic GPS Flight Hinted at Today’s Innovations (6215693 bytes)

Rockwell Collins and Springer Science+Business Media

Web reference:

For More Information, Contact:
David Van Dusseldorp


Submission authored by:
David Van Dusseldorp

5705 Woodbridge Crest
Marion, IA 52302