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Pilots pack general session on avionics advancesPilots pack general session on avionics advances

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AOPA President Phil Boyer, Dan Barks,
Gary Kelley, and Mark Sandeen

More than 1,200 people packed Thursday morning's general session at AOPA Expo to hear leaders in the avionics industry talk about the revolution in the cockpit that has occurred over the past five years.

Mark Sandeen of Avidyne, Gary Kelley of Garmin, and Dan Barks of Honeywell joined AOPA President Phil Boyer on stage, while representatives from a number of other companies were also on hand. Boyer began by pointing out that AOPA is the only aviation association, GA or otherwise, to have a staff member assigned full-time to advanced and emerging technologies. Senior Director of Advanced Technologies Randy Kenagy has been tracking and shepherding many of the technologies just now becoming available for as long as the past five to seven years.

All three representatives on stage stressed the safety and reliability of the new integrated flight decks that have become available this year. "Total situational awareness is affordable for everyone," said Avidyne's Sandeen. "The integrated flight decks help solve situational awareness problems," echoed Garmin's Kelley. "'What angle is the controller bringing me in on? Is he bringing me in right over the outer marker?' The new displays help keep the pilot informed."

During the question-and-answer period, Boyer asked Kelley about Garmin's acquisition of UPS Aviation Technologies. Kelley assured Boyer and the audience that Garmin has succeeded by developing new technologies and driving the price down as low as possible. He said that buying out one competitor is not going to change that business model.

One member, noting that he could not use the FAA's Traffic Information System (TIS) because there was no Mode S datalink capability in his area, asked if there were any plans to provide TIS via satellite. Garmin's Kelley responded that he was not aware of any plans to do so. Kelley said that once ADS-B (automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast) is widely available, it would be a better solution. ADS-B-equipped aircraft broadcast a highly accurate GPS-derived position to other ADS-B-equipped aircraft and through ground stations to air traffic controllers.

The FAA has been testing ADS-B technology in Alaska's Capstone project for a number of years. AOPA has been actively and intimately involved in those tests. FAA Administrator Marion Blakey acknowledged AOPA's participation during her address at yesterday's General Session, presenting Boyer with a plaque honoring AOPA for its role.

"AOPA believes strongly in the value of ADS-B and other cockpit datalink technologies," said Boyer. "We believe the new technologies offer such tremendous benefits that pilots will voluntarily spend money to upgrade. But we will continue to fight to make sure that the cost of the upgrade does not become the price of a ticket to use the National Airspace System."

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