ADS-B is being credited for saving an Alaskan pilot. The pilot is recuperating from injuries suffered in a crash earlier this week and thanking the Capstone equipment aboard his aircraft for his rescue.
Capstone, in which AOPA has been an active partner with the FAA, is a real-world implementation of multiple technologies in Alaska that can benefit general aviation. Capstone uses ADS-B—automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast—to augment air traffic control (ATC) radar coverage. Using the global positioning satellite system (GPS) and a datalink, Capstone-equipped aircraft broadcast their GPS-derived location to other aircraft and to air traffic control. ADS-B can work in areas where radar is unavailable or impractical.
On Monday, pilot Erick Gutierrez flew from Bethel 75 miles north to the village of Marshall, Alaska. He didn't return, and his employer notified authorities the aircraft was overdue. In this case, the downed aircraft's emergency locator transmitter failed to trigger. As a National Guard helicopter crew prepared to launch, rescue organizers turned to air traffic controllers, who called up the aircraft's ADS-B track and were able to vector a rescue helicopter directly to the aircraft's last known position. Barely two and a half hours after he was reported missing, the pilot had been picked up.
"The more we see of Capstone's capabilities, the more we support the technology's widespread deployment," said AOPA's Director of Advanced Technology Randy Kenagy. "Improved search and rescue capabilities are just some of the advantages this datalink offers to general aviation pilots. Traffic information and near-real-time weather graphics will also help improve safety."
Air traffic controllers in Alaska are using Project Capstone's ADS-B capabilities to vector equipped aircraft to an ILS approach at an airport without radar service. In addition, pilots can receive weather and traffic data in the cockpit via the datalink. Using the multifunction display that is an integral part of the Capstone avionics, pilots receive near-real-time Nexrad weather radar displays along with textual weather. Other ADS-B-equipped aircraft broadcasting their locations are displayed on the MFD as well, aiding in collision avoidance. The datalink is also capable of receiving information from ground-based radar on non-ADS-B aircraft. An on-board terrain database displayed on the MFD with the GPS-derived position gives pilots increased positional awareness and helps prevent controlled flight into terrain.
AOPA has backed Project Capstone from the outset. The association has taken part in the demonstration by setting up a test transmitter at AOPA's Frederick, Maryland, headquarters and equipping two AOPA-owned aircraft with Capstone avionics to be able to evaluate and demonstrate the technology.