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We have investigated light propagation through a single line-defect photonic crystal waveguide on a InP membrane. Modal analysis was performed using the finite-difference time-domain method. The fundamental mode has been found to be very close to the fundamental mode in a “refractive” waveguide but, in this case, it is inherently leaky. The propagation losses of this mode in the complete three-dimensional structure have been computed and measured to determine if its use could be of interest for practical applications. Propagation losses in the range of 0.1 dB/μm have been found numerically and experimentally for the fundamental mode whereas stronger out-of-plane losses have been observed for the other leaky mode within the band gap. The origins of the out-of-plane losses were then investigated and have clarified the inherent lower leakage of the fundamental mode. © 2002 American Institute of Physics.