[Avionics Today 02-25-2016] Flying and training in aircraft equipped with Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast Out (ADS-B Out) is becoming more standard and providing benefits for pilots across all segments of commercial, business and general aviation. While the FAA still estimates significantly low equipage levels — an anticipated 16 percent of the U.S. General Aviation (GA) fleet and just 9 percent of the U.S. air carrier fleet — all levels of aviation are starting to unlock new benefits of the technology for both pilots and ground-based personnel associated with their flight operations.
Aerospace Aircraft Display System (AADS) developed by the University of North Dakota's Computer Science Department. Photo: UND.
Training the Virtual Generation
The University of North Dakota's (UND) Department of Aviation is an excellent example of this. With a fleet of Cessna 172 and Piper Seminal fixed-wing aircraft, and eight Schweizer 300 helicopters all equipped with ADS-B, the next generation of pilots training are beginning their flying careers with a foundation in ADS-B that will prepare them for the continued evolution of automation in avionics that helps aircraft navigate more efficiently and safely.
Jeremy Roesler, chief airplane flight instructor at UND, said his program has been focusing on ensuring that new pilots are not excessively reliant on ADS-B In for awareness of other aircraft in nearby airspace.
"We are training young adults to be pilots today, which means we are training the cell phone, iPad and PS4 generation, so they have a tendency to focus on the technology side where realistically, at this level of flying, we want their eyes outside looking out the window scanning for traffic and then using ADS-B as a supplement but not as a primary. It is a very valuable tool, but it should not be our primary use where just because I see some traffic on my [Multi-Function Display] MFD does not mean that I don’t have any traffic out there," said Roesler.
That also extends to situations where an ADS-B Out transponder fails to broadcast the position of the aircraft that the student pilot is flying. The FAA's pilot interface requirements for airworthiness associated with ADS-B Out hardware and software under Advisory Circular 20-165B (AC 20-165B) states that when ADS-B equipment is unable to transmit ADS-B messages, the system must provide an appropriate annunciation to the flight crew. Installers are also required to provide documentation in the aircraft flight manual or flight manual supplement explaining how to differentiate between annunciation of pure ADS-B Out equipment failure and a position source or position source interface failure.
UND pilots in training are also learning about flying at ADS-B during an unusual phase, as ground-based ADS-B surveillance has not been expanded to all areas of the continental United States yet. This also provided an opportunity for UND, considering its aircraft are still broadcasting ADS-B position data.
"Local radar will still see us, because none of the local ATC facilities that we have around here actually has ADS-B equipment. We have developed our own software to be able to read the ADS-B information and display it on a flat screen TV where our operations desk can see where the traffic is at," said Roesler.
The Aerospace Aircraft Display System (AADS) developed by UND's Computer Science Department integrates aircraft position data from ADS-B along with Doppler weather radar and overlays the geo-referenced information on a Jeppesen aviation sectional chart. During one recent flying lesson, the school's use of ADS-B onboard the aircraft, in combination with the ground-based AADS tool, proved its worth.
"We had a student that was out flying solo and made a comment to the air traffic controller that he was getting low on fuel. The controller was concerned because the aircraft was below the coverage of radar, and they had lost all contact with this student, which is common because the radar and radio communications technology used by some Air Traffic Control (ATC) facilities is very altitude-based. That controller called our flight ops desk and the supervisors working the desk at that time could clearly see the student's airplane in the traffic pattern doing touch-and-go’s. The radar controller could not see or talk to the individual, but through our AADS software using the ADS-B data, we could verify that the aircraft is ok and we knew the position where they were at," said Roesler.
The Value of ADS-B
More experienced general aviation pilots are also starting to see the safety benefits as well as smaller improvements as more operators continue to equip and fly with ADS-B. Jeff Johnson, vice president of business development at Appareo, is an avid GA pilot who has learned there are certain nuances associated with flying an ADS-B Out equipped aircraft while receiving ADS-B In information on an iPad.
“With some of the portable devices, you need to make sure that you are setting your filters correctly. For example, in a certified display like a G1000, when you get a traffic report back it’s only showing you traffic that’s 3,500 feet above you and below you and 15 nautical miles around you. That’s very filtered to actionable aircraft,” said Johnson. “In most iPad software, for example, with Foreflight if you are getting your traffic through Stratus, there is a switch that you have to throw to limit the traffic to that 3,500 feet above and below and 15 nautical miles. If you turn that off you can see traffic much farther away.”
With the Jan. 1, 2020 mandate still four years away in the United States, and other regions such as countries in Europe and the Asia Pacific with ADS-B mandates either already established or planned along different timelines, pilots still have time to continue to become more familiar with the technology. As more aircraft become equipped with ADS-B technology, both the FAA on the infrastructure side and pilots and operators on the operational side will continue to unlock new benefits.
“I compare the continued adoption of ADS-B to the introduction and widespread adoption of in-flight weather radar and other technologies providing information about weather in the cockpit. Once you have flown with in-flight weather, you don’t want to do it without it anymore. Once you have flown an aircraft with ADS-B Out, you don’t want to go back to not using that. ADS-B is getting deployed in more aircraft everyday; the system is getting better all the time. There are more aircraft out there for you to see, there are more aircraft that are triggering traffic, so as we move toward 2020, ADS-B is becoming increasingly more valuable,” said Johnson.