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Saturday, March 1, 2008

Heli-Expo Show Day: FAA Spreads Word on ADS-B

THE FAA IS TAKING STEPS TO SPEED implementation of automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) services in the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska, and elsewhere in the United States.

The agency’s program office in charge of that innovative, satellite-based communications and navigation technology has won approval to hire implementation specialists and dispatch them to major air traffic control (ATC) facilities.

That is a critical step, said one senior FAA insider, for this reason: FAA air traffic managers by necessity are consumed with solving short-term problems such as operational ATC errors and with maximizing the flow of airline traffic through the airspace. They do not have time or staff to focus on longer-term issues such as implementation of a new ATC system.

Representatives of the ADS-B program office assigned to local ATC facilities can focus on clearing procedural and physical hurdles to fielding the system within that office’s area.

FAA officials will be offering updates on the status of ADS-B implementation — and what equipment will be required to use the system — during various presentations during Heli-Expo.

Helicopter operations will be a key test case for the implementation of ADS-B, which FAA leaders have called the backbone of the next-generation U.S. ATC system.

In 2006, through the efforts of HAI and others, the FAA agreed that the Gulf of Mexico would be one of the first areas in which ADS-B would be implemented.

Helicopter operators in the Gulf fly in an area roughly 250X500 mi. that has an average of 650 helicopters making 7,500 trips a day to 5,000 facilities, according to HAI President Matt Zuccaro. They fly about 38,000 hr and conduct 2.1 million operations a year, carrying 2.6 million passengers, with the majority of that below 5,000 ft. They do that with little communications with and no radar coverage from ATC. ADS-B should change that.

ADS-B provides real-time tracking and guidance data for pilots and controllers independent of ground-based radar, using signals among aircraft and between them and both satellites and ground stations.

The FAA last year named ITT Corp. as the prime contractor for ADS-B rollout, a contract valued at $1.86 billion over 18 years.

The FAA wants ADS-B to be available in six years everywhere it offers radar-based ATC services.

The first phase of ITT’s contract, costing $207 million over three years, calls for development, testing, and deployment of ADS-B in the Gulf of Mexico, Louisville, Ky., Philadelphia, and Juneau, Alaska.

ITT has proposed a dual-frequency approach to the ADS-B architecture that will involve the use of Universal Access Transceivers on general-aviation aircraft and 1090 MHz Extended Squitter transponders on airliners and other large aircraft.

In November, the FAA extended the period for commenting on its notice of proposed rulemaking on ADS-B, giving the public and industry until next month to comment. That proposal estimates that ADS-B equipment and installation costs will cost at least $4,328 for GA aircraft.

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