In the wake of a fatal midair collision over South Carolina, AOPA is renewing a call to the FAA to stop denying pilots an inexpensive source of traffic information that could aid their situational awareness.
A father and son died July 7 when their Cessna 150 and a U.S. Air Force F-16 collided over Moncks Corner, South Carolina. While the NTSB is still investigating what led to the collision, the tragedy prompted members to contact AOPA with concerns about midair collisions—and about an FAA policy that blocks Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) traffic information from being sent to aircraft that are not broadcasting ADS-B Out signals. AOPA has advocated for years for the FAA to make this safety-enhancing information freely available, and the association’s Air Safety Institute renewed the call to senior officials at the FAA and NTSB July 15.
“Even though the investigation is still underway in the South Carolina midair, and no determinations of causal factors have been released yet, it’s clear to me and AOPA’s members that unrestricted access to traffic awareness information (via ADS-B, TIS-B) has the clear potential to prevent midair collisions such as this,” said AOPA Air Safety Institute Senior Vice President George Perry.
Traffic Information Service-Broadcast (TIS-B) delivers subscription-free, situational-awareness-enhancing ADS-B traffic information to the cockpit—but in order to get the full traffic picture, pilots must equip with ADS-B Out. Pilots who have ADS-B In receivers but not the ADS-B Out transponder may see some traffic if an ADS-B-Out-equipped aircraft is nearby, but the FAA denies them full access to traffic information. They’re left with an incomplete and often confusing view of traffic.
“AOPA completely supports and encourages pilots to equip their aircraft with ADS-B Out prior to the 2020 mandate; however, in the interim, the FAA should make TIS-B traffic awareness information available to all pilots, not just the ones who can afford ADS-B Out certified equipment,” Perry said. ADS-B Out will be required by 2020 for operations in airspace where a transponder is currently required. “With over four years remaining until the 2020 mandate deadline, and with an average of four to five midair collisions every year, it is clear that broadcasting TIS-B traffic awareness information now has the potential to save lives.”
While the aviation community awaits details from the NTSB’s preliminary report that may provide insight into what happened in the July 7 midair collision, Perry brought member concerns to senior officials at the FAA and NTSB July 15. Perry asked the FAA to remove its policy of blocking TIS-B information from being sent to aircraft not equipped with ADS-B Out and to allow general aviation pilots full access to this benefit of ADS-B.
“The FAA’s decision to deliberately block ADS-B traffic awareness information has clear safety implications,” Perry said. “Actively blocking information that has the potential to save lives and is vital to flight safety makes no sense. Safety information should be made available to all pilots and I’m hopeful this heartbreaking tragedy will allow the FAA take pause and rethink this policy.”