Paul Schaaf is no stranger to ADS-B. He’s been working with the subject since 2003 when he joined The Mitre Corp. on FAA efforts for experimental installation relating to the Capstone Program. At that time, he was the chief pilot with the Fairfax County Police Dept. in Virginia and installed a pair of Garmin GDL 90s — the first generation of the ADS-B transceiver.
With U.S. Army aviation experience and a stint with Helicopter Assn. International (HAI) on his resume, he’s no stranger to the industry. Schaaf now spends his time flying in Washington, D.C., where he is a consultant and flight department manager for a fixed- and rotary-wing corporate flight department and for emergency medical service operator STAT Medevac. And although he thinks the FAA’s process for ADS-B compliance by 2020 could be tweaked, Schaaf hasn’t lost his affinity for the technology.
What are the benefits to flying with ADS-B?
The biggest benefit to ADS-B, I would say, is the precision traffic alerting. And the second biggest benefit to ADS-B is the products — the weather and notice to airmen — that you get onboard the aircraft. ADS-B In is where we really benefit. But also from a manager's perspective, ADS-B Out is really nice. I can log on and see where all the aircraft are at any particular point through a variety of third-party products that are tapping into the system. I really don't see any drawbacks to ADS-B. And I do not understand people who object to it.
What is the ADS-B project you are currently working on?
What I'm trying to do is install the Garmin GTX 345 — the drop-in replacement for Garmin GTX 327 intro. Garmin keeps saying that we're going to have an approved model list supplemental type certificate (AML STC) for the Garmin 345, which is the same panel space and apparently the same antenna — I'm a little incredulous about that and am waiting for it. If it goes as smoothly as Garmin says it's going to go, it's going to be great. It's not the cheapest way to comply with the ADS-B requirement, but it's certainly going to be the cleanest way.
Garmin GTX 345. Photo courtesy of Garmin
Testing the ADS-B In features just involves climbing in the aircraft and operating it, and seeing what kind of tower reception you have, making sure that the products are coming in and displaying correctly. The Garmin 345 is going to allow us to see ADS-B In information in our Garmin G500H — our primary flight display and multi-function display. And it's also going to connect to our ForeFlight electronic flight bag app on our mobile devices. The ADS-B out is tested by making notification to the FAA. If the FAA can see it, then it will give us our ADS-B Out certification, from what I understand.
I use ADS-B In features on virtually every flight I take because I carry an Appareo Stratus II with me. I have the Stratus II mounted in a Cessna CJ4, a Pilatus Aircraft PC-12 and a variety of helicopters I fly. The Stratus is a cool device; it's like an eight-hour battery. You basically put it in your pocket and turn it on, and it then creates a little Wi-Fi network that you can tap into. Then when you're flying, you can receive traffic and weather updates and everything on ForeFlight, which is a product that I think almost every pilot familiar is with, if they haven't used it by now.
What do you think of the mandated ADS-B upgrades?
Using the products is easier and more streamlined than I would have imagined it to be. The process of getting an aircraft certified with ADS-B Out, in compliance of the 2020 rule, is maybe a little fuzzier than I thought it would be because I'm still not 100% sure what the process is. But I think that the FAA should greatly relax. It has made some progress, from what I understand, to make it easier to do the upgrades. But it should back off even further. Also, ADS-B Out certifications should be entirely performance-based.
If it can, it should build some algorithms into the receiver system so that it knows if an aircraft is transmitting information with the integrity that we need. And then all we'd have to do is install a system, call the FAA and say: "Check our system. Is it working?" Maybe they say either, “Oh yeah, it is working,” or, “That's a dud.” Either your aircraft is transmitting its ADS-B information correctly or it is not. And the FAA knows it. If it's not, then it will let you know and your aircraft would be grounded. That makes it so it's incumbent upon the aircraft owner to make sure the aircraft is transmitting information correctly.
But, I'm a big fan of ADS-B, and I do think it’s one of the best things to happen to flying. I think if we keep the ADS-B system open, then the private industry is going to develop some goodies, some ways to interface and access that data that maybe we can't imagine yet, which is going to be good. I'm hopeful that we're going to have enhanced data, that the ADS-B system will grow and that we'll be able to get more information as time goes by once we've opened up that way of receiving information and transmitting information — that is a future benefit that we can't see yet.
Correction: Please note, this article previously referenced an incorrect version of Garmin technology, "DVL 90s" has been updated to refer to the correct term, which is "GDL 90s."