May 6, 2013
By Jim Moore
The FAA has awarded a $7 million contract to FreeFlight Systems of Waco, Texas, to equip up to 600 aircraft in Alaska with rule-compliant automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) equipment. The aircraft in question participated in the multi-year Capstone Project that refined ADS-B technology with help from users, and proved its worth for navigation, air traffic control, and search and rescue.
The contract will fulfill the FAA commitment to upgrading the avionics of aircraft used to test first-generation equipment, a project that spanned 12 years and is credited with a significant reduction in accidents and fatalities.
ADS-B is a cornerstone of NextGen airspace modernization, allowing aircraft equipped with Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) GPS and ADS-B Out equipment to broadcast precise location information every second. The technology allows air traffic controllers to monitor the position of aircraft operating within or outside of radar range with greater precision than radar can provide, providing ATC with 3-D position information derived from the WAAS GPS on board. ADS-B Out capability will become mandatory in 2020 for all aircraft operating in controlled airspace where a Mode C transponder is currently required. Aircraft with ADS-B In equipment can receive traffic and weather data from the system for display in the cockpit.
FreeFlight Systems, among the first companies to bring ADS-B transceivers to market for certified aircraft, won the competitive bid announced in September to equip the Capstone Project participants in Alaska.
AOPA Online Associate Editor Jim Moore joined AOPA in 2011 and is an instrument-rated private pilot who enjoys competition aerobatics.
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