Plane & Pilot
Thursday, June 19, 2008

Making ADS-B Work


The technology looks promising, but there are still unanswered questions about its implementation


ADSWhen it comes to owners being told they must install expensive new equipment in their planes, it’s always better to offer them more carrot and less stick as an incentive. For now, the FAA’s proposed mandate on Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) is looking like too much stick and too little carrot.
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ADS
The split screen function on the Garmin MX20 allows the pilot to view the regular moving map with all traffic overlaid and navigational information (left), and a graphical weather display overlaid on a basic moving map (right).
When it comes to owners being told they must install expensive new equipment in their planes, it’s always better to offer them more carrot and less stick as an incentive. For now, the FAA’s proposed mandate on Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) is looking like too much stick and too little carrot.

Since it began as the Capstone Project in Alaska, ADS-B has held the promise of delivering critical traffic and weather information into the cockpits of even the smallest general aviation (GA) aircraft. When Capstone ultimately proved its worth, the FAA opened the door for pilots in the Lower 48 to share the wealth.

The “East Coast deployment” wasn’t just a trial run, but a broad-scale program that still provides ADS-B coverage for almost all areas from eastern Pennsylvania to southern Florida. The project proved that near real-time weather and comprehensive traffic information could be delivered via datalink in an easy-to-use format that enhanced safety in two critical areas: traffic avoidance and weather depiction with forecasts. It also held the promise of replacing some ground-based ATC facilities with satellite-based surveillance.

Demonstration programs, such as the North Carolina Division of Aviation’s three-year effort, enabled thousands of aviators to get a firsthand look at what ADS-B delivers—almost everybody came away singing its praises. They loved the easily accessible Flight Information Services-Broadcast (FIS-B), which offers NEXRAD images, METARs and TAFs, and Traffic Information Services-Broadcast (TIS-B), which allows pilots to view all traffic squawking a Mode C transponder code or equipped with ADS-B transceivers. For those who witnessed ADS-B in action, there were usually two questions about its future: 1) When will it be available everywhere? 2) How much will it cost?

The FAA responded to the results of the demonstration projects by putting together a diverse group of technology advocates and potential vendors and laying out a plan for national deployment. It prepared a road map for how the system could be built, then initiated the bidding process for a vendor to install the national infrastructure. In 2007, ITT Corporation (www.itt.com) was announced as the prime contractor for the massive installation. ITT is heading a consortium that’s already preparing to expand the system; the goal is to provide nationwide service by 2012, and new ground stations will be installed as early as late 2008.

John Kefaliotis, ITT’s director of business development, describes his company’s role: “ITT is under contract to the FAA to field a national infrastructure that facilitates the full range of ADS-B services. Our infrastructure will collect ADS-B ‘Out’ data, forward that data to FAA ATC facilities and broadcast data for ADS-B ‘In’ applications, i.e., TIS-B and FIS-B. These are the first services to go online [in addition to the existing ‘legacy’ equipment], with the southern Florida key site ‘In-Service Decision’ date scheduled for November of this year.”

At the same time, the FAA was preparing its required notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), designed to generate public comment from interested parties, including such key advocacy organizations as AOPA, EAA and AEA (Aircraft Electronics Association). Once the NPRM was issued, those responses were overwhelmingly less than enthusiastic.




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