Greater efficiency and improved situational awareness — that’s what ADS-B promises to provide for aircraft operating in the national airspace system (NAS). With several airport areas already operating with ADS-B capability, as well as a recently published rule on
performance requirements, those objectives are becoming a reality. What do these changes mean to general aviation, a segment of the aviation community that accounts for a hefty majority of flights in the U.S.?
In her article “Get Ready for ADS-B,” in the May/June 2010 issue of FAA Safety Briefing, author Meredith Saini explains in detail the wide-ranging benefits this new technology offers, including an emphasis on the impact for GA pilots. “By 2020, all aircraft operating in certain designated airspace (generally the same airspace that requires a transponder) will be required to meet the prescribed performance standards for positional integrity and other criteria associated with ADS-B avionics,” says Saini.
Realizing that cost and the limited lifespan of many technologies may keep some pilots wary of making any major avionics upgrades, Saini points out that the FAA is working hard with industry and the aviation community to ensure that manufacturers bring suitable equipment to the marketplace when it’s needed, and that any required upgrades are available at a reasonable cost.
An example that shows the progress of these planning and coordination efforts can be found with a final rule the FAA published May 28, 2010, on ADS-B Out equipage. This is the technology that allows air traffic controllers to track aircraft via ADS-B information instead of radar information. When combined with ADS-B In it allows pilots and controllers to see the same aircraft position information. With the new rule in place, it is expected more companies will bring ADS-B avionics to market, spurring better prices and more competition.
“This rule gives the green light for manufacturers to begin building the onboard equipment that will allow our air traffic controllers to know where aircraft are with greater precision and reliability,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. “That is one of the key elements of NextGen that will improve the safety and efficiency of flight.”
The nationwide rollout of ADS-B ground stations will be complete in 2013.