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AOPA objects to the FAA unilaterally shutting down 23 TIS sitesAOPA objects to the FAA unilaterally shutting down 23 TIS sites

AOPA objects to the FAA unilaterally shutting down 23 TIS sites

Click for larger image
TIS data from a Garmin GRX 330
transponder displayed on a GNS 430.

AOPA says that the FAA's unilateral decision to eventually eliminate traffic information services (TIS) at 23 out of 107 terminal radar sites will "leave service gaps for the more than 12,000 pilots who have invested in this technology."

"The FAA's decision essentially indicates that traffic in the cockpit is not an element of the FAA plan to improve general aviation safety," wrote AOPA in a letter to Russ Chew, chief operating officer for the FAA's Air Traffic Organization. "The decision also contradicts the FAA's own philosophies contained in the July 8, 2005, version of the ' FAA Flight Plan' that spotlights efforts to improve aviation safety by providing traffic data to the cockpit."

And noting that the FAA made the decision without input from the aviation community, AOPA told Chew that "at a minimum, the FAA should solicit comments from the affected users before terminating TIS anywhere. The FAA should also consider the various options for affordably providing TIS at these 23 sites."

TIS (not to be confused with ADS-B) can provide traffic information to aircraft flying within range of most terminal radar approach control (tracon) radar systems. Aircraft must be equipped with a Mode-S transponder and appropriate cockpit display unit.

Even though Mode-S TIS equipment is being marketed by major manufacturers and more than 12,000 pilots have adopted the first-generation technology, the FAA decided to terminate the service at some 23 tracons as they replace older radar systems with the new ASR-11. An internal FAA decision document said that the FAA Air Traffic Organization had no official requirement to provide traffic uplink services to aircraft.

But that calls into question the FAA's continued support for other new technologies that the agency expects pilots to adopt. AOPA Senior Vice President of Government and Technical Affairs Andy Cebula says there is a larger issue at stake. "The FAA is looking to modernize and improve the air traffic control and surveillance system by encouraging pilots to voluntarily equip with new technologies like ADS-B. This unilateral action on TIS sends the message that the FAA won't necessarily support the technology that consumers have been induced to buy."

TIS is a first-generation traffic system that only works close to tracons and can only display aircraft that are being "painted" by the tracon radar. Nevertheless, several manufacturers have developed and marketed Mode-S transponders and traffic displays taking advantage of TIS, and pilots have purchased these systems to reduce their risk of midair collisions while in terminal airspace.

The next-generation system, ADS-B, can work anywhere and provide traffic information to controllers and other aircraft even below radar coverage. The UAT transceiver developed for ADS-B has the additional capability of receiving up-to-the-minute weather graphics and other information. AOPA is a strong supporter of the weather and traffic information available through the ADS-B system.

The FAA has already decommissioned TIS at the Bangor, Maine, Tracon. The remaining 22 sites will be decommissioned as the new radars are installed, with the last installation scheduled for 2012. The FAA apparently will continue TIS at 84 other tracons, however.

[See also AOPA's issue brief.]

July 14, 2005

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