Jun. 10--Aircraft flying in certain controlled airspace must be able to broadcast their position using a satellite-based system by 2020, the Federal Aviation Administration ruled last month.
The switch from the current ground-based radar system to a satellite-based air traffic control system will mean changes for aircraft manufacturers, owners and operators, who must equip their aircraft to handle the switch.
The new system, called Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast, or ADS-B, is part of the FAA's Next Generation Air Transportation System, commonly called NextGen.
The system will give controllers and pilots better information about aircraft location, weather, terrain, flight information and situational awareness, the FAA said.
"ADS-B for the first time allows pilots to see what controllers see: other aircraft in the sky around them," the FAA said in a fact sheet.
Satellite signals are more accurate and reliable than radar, the FAA said.
Ultimately, that means controllers will be able to safely reduce the separation between aircraft, which will increase the capacity of the nation's skies, it said.
Experts expect air traffic to double in the U.S. and Europe in the next 15 years.
General Aviation Manufacturers Association president and CEO Pete Bunce applauded the FAA rules.
"With this rule, we have the standards in place that will allow for further acceleration of air traffic modernization," he said.
But the government should provide incentives to pilots to upgrade their equipment sooner, he said.
"If everybody waits to equip until the mandate... we're going to have a mad dash at the end of the decade," Bunce said. That could delay adoption of the new system.
For aircraft operators, the cost of equipment could vary from a few thousand dollars for small aircraft to hundreds of thousands of dollars, he said.
The government will have equipment in place to support air traffic control and broadcast services by 2013.
ADS-B ground stations are easier to place than radar, the FAA said. And remote areas without radar coverage, such as the Gulf of Mexico and parts of Alaska, are already covered by ADS-B.
Controllers at the Louisville International Airport and Philadelphia International Airport have the capability to use ADS-B.
In addition, the United Parcel Service has equipped 100 aircraft with the new avionics.
The FAA ruling
On May 27, the FAA released a ruling that sets ADS-B Out equipment performance standards.
Planes equipped with ADS-B Out will have the ability to transmit information out of the aircraft to ground stations and to other equipped aircraft.
"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," FAA administrator Randy Babbitt said in a statement.
Other equipment, called ADS-B In, will give aircraft the ability to receive information from other equipped aircraft or the ground stations. The FAA has not yet issued rules for that equipment.
Wichita aircraft manufacturers have known that the rule changes are coming and are working to comply.
Cessna Aircraft has been delivering some models of aircraft with ADS-B equipment installed since early 2009. They include the Citation CJ1 Plus, CJ2 Plus, CJ3 and CJ4 and the Encore Plus, spokesman Bob Stangarone said.
In August, Hawker Beechcraft will begin to deliver Beechcraft Baron and Bonanza aircraft with ADS-B equipment installed, Hawker Beechcraft senior product manager Trevor Blackmer.
In 2012, Rockwell Collins will have avionics available for King Air and Hawker business jets through the Hawker 900XP, Blackmer said. And Honeywell will have equipment available for the Hawker 4000.
It's better to equip the aircraft as soon as possible rather than wait for the mandate, Blackmer said.
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