FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said the ground infrastructure for the nation's automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) will be ready for operations by next year.
(An ITT Exelis ADS-B Ground Station. Photo, courtesy of ITT Exelis.)
Huerta, speaking at the RTCA Symposium on Wednesday, said the entire United States will be covered by more than 700 ADS-B ground radio stations, built by ITT Exelis. Currently there are more than 500 ADS-B ground radio stations deployed in the U.S.
"Next year the entire U.S. will be covered by over 700 ground radio stations, and even more equipment equipped with ADS-B, as that happens, we'll be able to fully realize its benefits throughout the National Airspace System," said Huerta.
The FAA's top official also discussed the difficulties his agency faces in deploying ADS-B due to its budget uncertainties, largely a result of the recently implemented sequester.
"It would be easier to carry out our goals with a clear long-term fiscal solution--sequester, continuing resolutions year after year make it a little more challenging for the continuity of NextGen programs," said Huerta.
ITT Exelis is responsible for providing the ADS-B ground infrastructure for FAA. John Kefaliotis, vice president of Next Generation Air Transportation at ITT, provided an update on the company's progress with deploying the ground stations during a panel discussion of NextGen integrated operational capabilities.
"The ground infrastructure program is making very substantial progress," said Kefaliotis. "Ulitmately, ADS-B will be an enabler of modernized air traffic control procedures that will provide very significant increases in the efficiency and capacity of NAS terminal airspace."
Both commercial and private operators have been cautious to undergo ADS-B equipage as they wait for the government to provide the infrastructure necessary to support ADS-B. In 2010, former FAA Administrator Randy Babbit targeted 2013 for the full nationwide rollout of ADS-B ground stations.
However, there are current commercial and private aircraft that are equipped with ADS-B, allowing FAA to test functionality and show operators what benefits will result from their 2020 mandate for aircraft ADS-B Out equipage. For example, during an RTCA panel on near-term versus long-term NextGen implementation, Steven Dickson, senior vice president of flight operations at Delta Air Lines, said "aircraft equipage is becoming less of a problem."
Crucial to the government-industry collaboration necessary to ensure the nationwide rollout of ADS-B ground stations is achieved, and the 2020 mandate is met by airlines and operators, is the NextGen Advisory Committee (NAC). The group holds meetings throughout the year to allow government and industry stakeholders to create funding, policy and procedure solutions that help to deploy all of the components of NextGen.
"When we first got started, there was the idea that NextGen is kind of a big-bang technology," said NBAA President and NAC committee member Ed Bolen. "Over the years its been understood, its not just about technology, its about policies, its about procedures, its about operations, and we're doing all of this to ensure that our system reduces its environmental footprint through more direct routing, we're doing it to increase safety through better situational awareness--and we're continuing to make progress on bringing that all together."