Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast, aka ADS-B, has the potential — just about everybody agrees on this — to be the biggest change in aviation traffic handling in decades. It may be, according to one source, the most important change in air traffic handling since radar.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last few years, you know at least something about ADS-B. It is a satellite-based system that involves aircraft sending info to satellites that coordinate all the info and send it back to aircraft. Pilots and controllers will be able to see “radar-like” symbols that identify other traffic, complete with a world of details about those other aircraft. It will be real-time info, updated every second instead of roughly every 12 seconds as with radar. For the last few years it has been tested in Alaska and it worked well.
Sounds fairly simple, but if you delve more deeply it becomes more complex.
In early airmail days, Lindbergh and others took their chances without even a two-way radio. Then we progressed to the point that IFR flights were “followed” by ATC (or whatever they called it then). The pilot reported his whereabouts from time to time and ATC moved a little symbol along to keep up with the flight. Then ATC got radar and flight was never the same again. Today, in much of the country ATC can “see” a flight on radar.
ADS-B could improve this greatly. I have talked with the flight controllers association, FAA, AOPA, and a couple of airline pilots. Everyone, it seems, wants the system but worries about the implementation, even though FAA says it has that under control.
One airline pilot worries that rules, regs, and cost will be added until the system becomes too expensive and too complex to work. FAA, however, told me nay, nay. They are hard at work making ADS-B simpler rather than more complex. Time will tell, I reckon.
Everyone has questions about cost, rules, and airspace. Some, who still remember Orwell’s book 1984, worry about guvmintal big brotherism. They point out that the census started out to determine who lived in this country. Now they want to know everything including what kind of plumbing you have in your house.
This entire system is, of course, dependent on the aviation reauthorization bill. Until that passes, we are just dreaming.
FAA says a genav owner will have to spend $7,644 to $10,920 to equip an aircraft to send info to the system (mandatory) and another few thousand if the owner wants the aircraft to get info back from the system (not mandatory). The genav aircraft need not qualify for ADS-B for flight into uncontrolled airspace.
That doesn’t include the costs of getting ATC qualified for the system, but, what the heck, the way the presidential candidates talk, we’ve got money enough to solve all problems for all people.