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FAA Re-authorization ADS/B Requirement has Benefits, Drawbacks

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Well-known member
Nov 28, 2001

Congress has or is about to pass the FAA re-authorization. This is great news, in that there are many pluses and a few minuses to go with the passage. There is the fuel tax, that will go up. Then there is safety changes, and money for research. The huge win so far, is the elimination of user fees.The one item that may be hard to get excited about is the requirements for ADS/B that are attached to the legislation, since it means we need to spend more money on our aircraft. There are a few questions surrounding ADS/B and what it truly means. What equipment our aircraft will need, and what benefit we get from having it.

The requirements are for ADS/B out only by 2015, and ADS/B in by 2018. This seems pretty aggressive, and will rely on the FAA fully deploying the ground based stations to handle all the ADS/B traffic. In some metropolitan areas, ADS/B will work also using the Mode-S transponders and the RADAR that is in use today.

To meet the 2015 requirement, most aircraft (GA, business and air transport) will need additional equipment. ADS/B out will require a GPS receiver, and some kind of transceiver. The GPS unit will probably have to be mounted in the aircraft, and meet the C129 or C145/146 TSO requirements. The transceiver can be either a mode S transponder with the extended squitter capability (1090ES) or a Universal Access Transceiver (UAT) according to TSO-154c. Additional equipment may include antennas and wiring to support the new equipment added to the aircraft.

There is limited personal benefit to the ADS/B out. The position of the aircraft will be more accurate, and easier to correlate for the air traffic control personnel and computers. The update rate will increase, and there will be coverage in remote locations, especially in mountainous terrain. ATC may be able to offer separation information in places it wasn’t able to before.

The 2018 requirement will require a bit more equipment. Again, a GPS receiver will be needed, and a transceiver, but also a display will be required to make use of the extra information available. The GPS receiver may contain the display that can be used to display the information, or a modular system can be put together using a multi function display (MFD), a GPS receiver, and a UAT. Additional wiring will be needed, if the aircraft isn’t already equipped with a GPS and an MFD.

The benefits to ADS-B in, are many. Not only will the aircraft be able to send position information to each other, they will also be able to get traffic information (TIS-B) from ground based stations, along with weather and other flight related information (FIS-B). With ADS-B in, at a glance, a pilot should be able to see traffic, and weather, along with TFR’s and other airspace information.

Many of the current display manufacturers have built the capability into their display to accept this information, and participate in the NextGen FAA requirements. There are a few manufacturers today that are building UAT’s, but that will change when the ruling is finalized, and the avionics companies see that there is a market from this kind of equipment.

The new avionics will not replace the air traffic controllers. It will make the communications easier for the controllers and pilots. If the controller can say “aircraft at 8 o’clock”, and the pilot can look down and see the same thing the controller sees, answers will come with out asking.

Getting equipped early will be a mixed blessing. The facilities may not be there to utilize the equipment everywhere, and it will cost more, probably since there is a narrow market. Waiting until just before the deadline will provide another set of challenges, since the avionics shops will be full of procrastinators, but the costs may be lower, and the facilities will be there to fully utilize the investment.

Congress has handed the US pilots a new twist for our flying. It will be fun to have all this new equipment on our aircraft. It should make travel more efficient, and safer. It will be a challenge for the FAA to fully deploy the ground stations outlined in the legislation, and to equip all the aircraft. When it is finally finished, flying will never be the same.

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