This article describes a linear air-bearing stage that uses active control to compensate for its motion errors. The active control is based on preloads generated by magnetic actuators, which were designed to generate nominal preloads for the air bearings using permanent magnets to maintain the desired stiffness while changing the air-bearing clearance by varying the magnetic flux generated by the current in electromagnetic coils. A single-axis linear stage with a linear motor and 240 mm of travel range was built to verify this design concept and used to test its performance. The motion of the table in three directions was controlled with four magnetic actuators driven by current amplifiers and a DSP (Digital Signal Processor)-based digital controller. The motion errors were measured using a laser interferometer combined with a two-probe method, and had 0.085 mu m of repeatability for the straightness error. As a result of feed-forward active compensation, the errors were reduced from 1.09 to 0.11 mu m for the vertical motion, from 9.42 to 0.18 arcsec for the pitch motion, and from 2.42 to 0.18 arcsec for the roll motion. (C) 2008 American Institute of Physics.