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Air traffic control chief sees the GA side of things at AOPA HQAir traffic control chief sees the GA side of things at AOPA HQ

Air traffic control chief sees the GA side of things at AOPA HQ

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AOPA President Phil Boyer demonstrates
advanced GA avionics to
FAA ATO chief Russ Chew.

It was a first for the head of the FAA's air traffic control organization — spending a good part of the day visiting AOPA's headquarters and speaking with Phil Boyer, members of the AOPA management team, and seeing some of the new technology in light general aviation aircraft.

Russ Chew, chief operating officer of the Air Traffic Organization, flew a GPS-WAAS approach in a typical general aviation aircraft at Frederick Municipal Airport (AOPA headquarters) Thursday, and he was very impressed with the technology now making its way into general aviation aircraft.

He experienced some of that technology at the controls of AOPA President Phil Boyer's Cessna 172. "I think he was amazed at how much more stable the WAAS needle is compared to an ILS," said Boyer. "A WAAS approach is even easier to fly than an ILS."

During his AOPA headquarters tour Mr. Chew was particularly impressed with the toll-free Pilot Assistance Hotline (1-800-USA-AOPA) and AOPA's dedication to a high-level of member service.

Chew also experienced an AOPA-supported technology — Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) — on his flight with Boyer. With ADS-B, the aircraft transmits its GPS coordinates and motion vectors to ground receivers and other aircraft. Every ADS-B equipped aircraft can "see" every other equipped aircraft in the area, and air traffic control can see all equipped aircraft without the usual line-of-sight and false return limitations of radar. Plus, updates are every second, compared to 2 or 3 sweeps of radar over several seconds to see an aircraft track.

But the system can do so much more. Not only will the GA pilot have traffic information in the cockpit, independent of air traffic control (Chew was quite impressed with the self-separation aspects at FDK, a non-towered airport), but the pilot can also receive real-time weather information, including graphics. A pilot will be able to see NEXRAD radar images in the cockpit, to help make decisions on the best route to avoid weather.

As the FAA considers the huge expense of replacing the aging radar infrastructure by 2015, ADS-B may assume a significant role in aircraft surveillance.

"Russ Chew has the heart of a pilot and the head of businessman," said Boyer. "He understands and loves aviation at all levels, and he knows what it takes to run an organization like a business. But as someone who started in GA, and worked for a cost-constrained air carrier, Russ is sensitive to mandatory equipage for both the air transport category aircraft and the very cost sensitive general aviation fleet. The technology will evolve, but you won't be forced to buy new equipment tomorrow."

Before taking the FAA job, Chew was head of American Airlines flight operations. He'd come up through the pilot ranks, starting in 1984. But before flying the heavy iron, he flew general aviation for more than a decade. He started with a "Discovery Flight" in a Cessna 150, and worked his way up to flying charters in Lear Jets.

Reflecting on the visit of the C.O.O. of the FAA's Air Traffic Organization Boyer concluded the day a success. "While AOPA will not agree with Russ on everything FAA proposes, it was certainly refreshing to enjoy half a day as the former airline captain relived his GA roots."

August 12, 2005

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