Kenneth Mead, inspector general for the U.S. Department of Transportation, recently requested a briefing from AOPA staff to get answers to his questions about ADS-B, or automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast. ADS-B is a new technology that allows controllers and pilots to see the position of aircraft without using radar.
"We spent a very productive hour with Mr. Mead," said AOPA Senior Vice President of Government and Technical Affairs Andy Cebula, "answering his questions and helping understand the challenges of general aviation operations today, and the benefits that technology could bring in the future."
Cebula and AOPA Director of Advanced Technology Randy Kenagy took an ADS-B simulator to their meeting with the IG to show him the value the system brings to the cockpit.
Mead indicated that despite the success of the FAA's own general aviation ADS-B test project, Capstone in Alaska, there is some resistance to implementing the new system. AOPA has been an active participant in the Capstone project. Two AOPA aircraft at the Frederick, Md., headquarters are equipped with Capstone avionics as part of the test project.
Airlines and major air cargo carriers, among others, view ADS-B as a valuable tool to enhance airspace capacity over the long term, but Kenagy and Cebula showed Mead that there is a nearly immediate safety benefit for general aviation.
On its own, ADS-B will only display other ADS-B-equipped aircraft. But by taking advantage of the system's datalink capabilities, aircraft could also receive FAA radar-observed traffic through TIS-B (traffic information system-broadcast). TIS-B would uplink the same radar information air traffic controllers see, allowing an ADS-B aircraft to see non-ADS-B aircraft. The system could also provide in-cockpit weather graphics airspace information (such as active TFRs) using FIS-B (flight information system-broadcast).
"Coupled with TIS-B, ADS-B greatly enhances and extends a GA pilot's ability to see and avoid," said Kenagy. "And FIS-B will allow pilots to make smarter, timelier decisions as the weather or airspace situation changes.
"It's that kind of value-added safety benefit that will convince many GA pilots to decide voluntarily to spend the money for new equipment, as was the case with GPS."
Mead was impressed with the ADS-B capabilities and asked to see a real-world demonstration aboard one of the AOPA aircraft later this year.