Committee calls for changes to FAA's ADS-B plan
FAA seeks comments on proposed changes to ADS-B plan
Imagine one day in the near future looking at a multifunction display (MFD) in your cockpit and seeing virtually the same traffic information as air traffic control. And, the MFD also shows the latest weather in text and graphics.
That is the promise ADS-B—automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast—holds for general aviation if the FAA can develop a successful implementation plan and the avionics become affordable. That’s why AOPA is working to rectify the FAA’s current plan that would limit many of the following benefits.
The ADS-B system, and others like it being offered by nongovernmental providers, holds great promise for pilots to bring real-time weather, air traffic, temporary flight restrictions (TFRs), and enhanced situational awareness information into the cockpit.
In an industry already swimming with abbreviations, let’s break down ADS-B letter by letter. The “A” for automatic means that you don’t have to do anything except fly the airplane. The “D” in dependent means that it relies on, let’s call it, a positioning source.
The “S” as in surveillance means that air traffic control can see you, even when there’s no radar coverage such as in remote parts of Alaska. Finally, the “B” stands for broadcast. Since it’s polite to reciprocate, that means your aircraft is not only receiving but sending information to other ADS-B-equipped aircraft and to controllers.
The new technology takes advantage of the GPS network of satellites that can accurately determine the position of a given object. The technology determines an airplane’s position via GPS then broadcasts that position to all listeners.
The information is transmitted using universal access transceivers (UATs). These UATs use the 978-MHz frequency that can move up to four times as much data at about four times as fast as current datalink methods. While the FAA’s current ADS-B proposal would use UATs, a final decision hasn’t been made.
ADS-B-equipped aircraft digitally broadcast their positions derived from the on-board GPS receivers to other ADS-B-equipped aircraft and to ground stations. The information includes position, altitude, airspeed, and projected track, which can then be displayed on an aircraft’s MFD or an air traffic controller’s screen. Proof-of-concept trials were conducted in Alaska under the name Project Capstone, proved that ADS-B can greatly extend air traffic control’s view of all air traffic by using remote ground receivers where air search radars would be impractical and by feeding the remote signals back to the controller’s screen.
[Pilots are encouraged to comment on the proposed changes to the ADS-B plan. For details on submitting comments by the Nov. 3 deadline, see the FAA’s notice.—Ed.]
Almost one year after the FAA released its implementation plan for replacing today’s radar system with a satellite-based surveillance system known as ADS-B (automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast), the aviation rulemaking committee formed to review the proposal has called for sweeping changes that reflect many of AOPA’s earlier recommendations.
AOPA President Phil Boyer first made public the results from the committee during AOPA Pilot Town Meetings in Alaska this week, where there is a strong desire from aircraft owners for the FAA to implement a system that will truly benefit them. The committee reviewed thousands of comments from pilots and recommended 36 changes that AOPA plans to use to educate lawmakers and leaders about the issues facing GA.
“Pilots are concerned about how the FAA will implement this new technology, and the committee has independently validated those concerns,” said Boyer. “Now it’s up to us to make sure the FAA addresses pilots’ concerns about costs and the lack of a benefit or even incentives to adopt this important new technology.”
The ADS-B rulemaking committee said that the FAA’s plan creates a cost burden for aircraft owners and squelches the technology’s potential benefits, something AOPA has been pointing out for a year now. Under the current proposal, GA aircraft would have to be equipped with ADS-B transmitters by 2020 in order to fly in airspace where a Mode C transponder is required today.
“After reviewing the comments, the committee understands that the GA community is being unfairly asked to spend more to equip their aircraft than they will receive in benefits from the mandated technology,” said AOPA Government Affairs Chief of Staff Randy Kenagy, who represented members on the committee.
Under the FAA’s implementation plan, pilots would need ADS-B to fly above 10,000 feet msl or within Class B or C terminal airspace. Except for flights over the Gulf of Mexico, traditional radar services such as flight following or radar-like vectoring in new airspace or at new airports would not be offered to ADS-B equipped aircraft.
AOPA and the rulemaking committee recommended that air traffic services be expanded to non-radar airspace and airports that have at least one instrument approach and runways longer than 3,000 feet. Additionally, the FAA was told that it should provide enhanced search and rescue services for ADS-B, enhance FSS airborne services with ADS-B aircraft locations, enable a feature to allow flight plans to be automatically closed for aircraft with ADS-B, and reduce separation to the 3-nautical-mile minimum separation for all non-radar airspace.
Both have said the FAA needs to allow an anonymity feature for VFR aircraft not using air traffic services. It is a privacy issue that is important to many pilots.
Regarding the actual implementation of the technology, the committee echoed AOPA’s stance that incentives would need to be created in order to present a compelling business case for light GA aircraft to equip with ADS-B.
“To do this, the FAA will need to reduce purchase and installation costs, and at the same time, increase the benefits the technology can provide,” said Kenagy. “The committee recommends that most light GA be exempt from the mandate to equip until these changes are made and coordinated with airspace users.”
Affordability is key to AOPA members. Some 75 percent of members have said they would be willing to equip their aircraft with ADS-B if free weather and traffic information were provided, and if the equipment cost was about the same as a transponder, assuming it could be replaced with ADS-B.
The FAA must now decide how to incorporate the committee’s recommendations. It is possible that so many changes will be made that the agency may need to issue a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking.
October 1, 2008