AOPA President Phil Boyer (right) and N.C. Aviation
Director Bill Williams discuss ADS-B avionics.
North Carolina aviation officials, including state aviation director Bill Williams, flew to AOPA headquarters on Monday to get a firsthand look at new technology they plan to install statewide.
"We face a number of issues in North Carolina," said Williams, "and we think ADS-B is a possible solution." ADS-B, automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast, provides pilots with real-time traffic, weather, and, eventually, airspace information in the cockpit by using universal access transceiver (UAT) datalink technology. North Carolina plans to install ADS-B ground stations across the state to make that information available to pilots.
"AOPA has been a vocal advocate for using ADS-B-based technologies to bring new information to the general aviation cockpit. We've actively participated in its development with the FAA," said AOPA President Phil Boyer, who took Williams for a demonstration flight. "And we're thrilled to see North Carolina step up and offer their support in very creative and innovative ways to what is sure to be part of the air traffic control system of the future."
ADS-B-equipped aircraft transmit their GPS-derived position to other ADS-B-equipped aircraft and ground stations. If an aircraft is outside of normal radar coverage, the ground station can display the aircraft's location and altitude on air traffic controllers' displays, filling in radar gaps for ATC.
But for pilots, the real magic happens in the cockpit because the datalink that ADS-B uses to transmit an aircraft's position is a two-way street. That means that the ground stations that send the ADS-B signal to ATC can also send radar-derived traffic information back up to the aircraft, using the FAA's TIS-B (traffic information system-broadcast). And that means that a pilot can see not only ADS-B, but also non-ADS-B-equipped traffic on an in-cockpit display screen. Using FIS-B (flight information system-broadcast), pilots can also receive graphic and textual weather information, and eventually even airspace updates.
Williams says he sees ADS-B as an enhancement to air safety. "You get a little different feeling in the cockpit," he said. "More confidence. It gives a pilot more information and makes him much more efficient."
But Williams said the system can have little effect on air safety unless pilots use it. "We're relying on AOPA's membership to get engaged," he said.
"We came to AOPA headquarters to learn more about ADS-B and see it in action," said Williams. "I'd say we met our objective. We leave here well informed."
North Carolina hopes to have ADS-B in place as rapidly as the FAA can implement it, perhaps as early as September 2004.