Avionics News February 2016 - 28
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The foundations of change
Before controllers started using ADS-B-based tracking for
their air-traffic management, the FAA invested years in building
a network of ground stations to provide the link between ADSB-equipped aircraft and the controllers. In 2014, the agency
finished its baseline, nationwide deployment of ADS-B ground
stations - a whopping 634 in all - to move toward meeting the
agency's commitment to complete NextGen's foundational
infrastructure in 2015.
Along the way, ADS-B has been integrated into automation
platforms at 22 of 24 en route air traffic control facilities (19
of 20 En Route Automation Modernization systems and three
of four Microprocessor En Route Automated Radar Tracking
systems), to manage high-altitude traffic.
The complementary ADS-B In services - both traffic and
weather broadcasts - are now available nationwide via that
network of 634 stations.
And that's not the only progress the FAA made in advancing
NextGen benefits for pilots. In the past few years, the agency
has pursued an aggressive program to develop new GPS-based
instrument approach procedures based on the high degree of accuracy available from GPS using the Wide Area Augmentation
System, or WAAS. WAAS GPS is not the only position source
eligible to fulfill the ADS-B mandate for precision position and
flight data; it's the most affordable and most common.
Thanks to WAAS, as of early December 2015, there were
3,591 localizer performance with vertical guidance approach
procedures serving 1,746 airports. Of those airports, more than
half - 1,002 of them - are airports lacking the previous standard
bearer of precision-approach procedures: the ILS, or instrument
Additionally, among the newest approaches are 596 localizer performance approach procedures in the U.S. serving 432
That's almost 1,600 airports with new WAAS GPS-based
precision or near-precision approaches in six years. It's difficult
to say there isn't observable progress in advancing the utility of
The first major area of ADS-B coverage to benefit operators (outside the test areas) came to the Gulf of Mexico region after the FAA placed a large network of ground stations
mounted on oil platforms scattered across the Gulf. An area
regularly beset with instrument meteorological conditions,
Gulf Coast helicopter operators saw an immediate improvement in their mission completion rates thanks to the more
accurate positive control delivered to controllers via ADS-B.
With the ADS-B ground network live nationwide, it's now
mostly up to the user community to finish getting on board.
While approved solutions were few in number in 2010 and
into early 2011, the avionics industry has since churned out solutions covering a large majority of the general aviation fleet -
particularly the prop-driven segment, both piston and propjet.
But the community itself isn't rushing to the avionics
shops to line up to make their aircraft compliant. According
to the FAA, as of July 2015, more than 13,000 general aviation and 425 commercial aircraft had received equipment to
comply with the ADS-B mandate. That leaves, depending on
your starting point, close to 180,000 aircraft yet to equip in
less than 47 months.
Scheduling now, even for an upgrade in a year or 18
months, could help an operator avoid facing airspace-access
restrictions for lack of compliance. And noncompliance,
according to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, is not an
option. The agency has no plans to push back the deadline of
one minute past midnight on Jan. 1, 2020.
Fortunately, the equipment options of today far exceed
those of just 24 months ago - and continue to expand.
Equipping options keep growing
Consider the progress of ADS-B solutions and the
NextGen advances ADS-B's hardware brings to the cockpit
- from few and highly priced in 2011 to 2016 with multiple
options spanning the cost range.
From Aspen and Avidyne to Garmin and Honeywell,
L-3 Aviation Products and Rockwell Collins, BendixKing,
NavWorx, Trig Avionics, Sandia Aerospace and FreeFlight
Systems, solutions exist for the majority of Part 23 aircraft
flying and on production lines.
An increasing range of options are arriving for businessturbine and commercial fleets. And the field is seeing more
collaborative solutions, as well.
For example, in November 2015, Aspen Avionics Evolution displays won approval from the FAA to pair with L-3's
Lynx ADS-B products - a product line of significant depth.
The interface lets ADS-B weather and traffic data from
either the Lynx NGT-9000 transponder model or the NGT2500 remote universal access transceiver box to display on
Aspen's displays. Additionally, L-3's NextGen Active Traffic
system in the NGT-9000+ model also will display active TAS
traffic on the Aspen display screen.
The L-3 Lynx NGT-9000 Mode S extended squitter transponder employs a touch-screen display and gets its position
and other data from an integral GPS WAAS. A common RS232 interface provides the pathway between the L-3 ADS-B
traffic and weather data and its display to the Aspen Evolution screens.
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