But What About The Cost... And Backup Systems?
It's a little early, but officials at the FAA have already
started on their Christmas list... and at the top of that list is a
national air traffic control system utilizing GPS -- and ONLY GPS
-- technology by the year 2014.
That, of course, would mean the radar-based system controllers
have used since the late 1940s would be phased out... something FAA
Administrator Marion Blakey says can't come a moment too soon, as
the new satellite-based system would mean safer air travel for
The new Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast System, or
ADS-B, will provide more detailed information to ground controllers
than radar can provide -- AND it can also transmit that information
to pilots, providing them with better situational awareness because
they will know where their own aircraft are with greater accuracy,
and their displays will show them all the aircraft in the air
The FAA says pilots
will also be able to maintain safe separation from other aircraft
with fewer instructions from ground-based controllers. At night and
in poor visual conditions, pilots will also be able to see where
they are in relation to the ground using on-board avionics and
ADS-B has undergone testing in Australia and Alaska, as well as
by UPS at its hub in Louisville, KY.
However, there is the matter of money... airlines are
worried ADS-B will cost too much, although the FAA says after their
initial $600 million investment in the new technology, airlines
will wind up saving $1.3 billion through trip savings.
AOPA Says ADS-B Still Needs A Backup
The world of aviation moves pretty fast -- and if you need any
proof, consider that it really wasn't all that long ago that
another "new" technology was being heralded: loran, or long range
navigation, which was the first technology to give pilots a
high-performance area navigation system.
Until GPS receivers began showing up in cockpits, VOR technology
-- a successor of sorts to the original loran system, itself an
outgrowth of a British system used in WWII -- was the gold
standard. Of course, VORs are still around today -- and pilots are
still taught how to navigate from VOR to VOR, even though many GA
pilots have retired their loran units with the advent of GPS.
Pilots can still use the loran system for backup
navigation, though... and that's an option the Aircraft Owners and
Pilots Association doesn't want to see cast aside by the FAA's
focus on ADS-B, and subsequent retirement of VOR stations.
AOPA president Phil Boyer has asked the FAA to look into the
feasibility of continuing to maintain loran even after ADS-B
becomes the new standard... since no backup system for GPS
currently exists, and those satellites DO go out of order from time
"Once gone, loran will no longer be a backup option, and any
other suitable aviation alternative would likely be more costly,
take longer to implement, and would be the responsibility of the
FAA exclusively," AOPA President Phil Boyer told FAA Administrator
Marion Blakey. "Let's look before we leap on this issue."
AOPA has asked the FAA
to direct the industry advisory council, RTCA, to "evaluate and
validate loran's performance and viability as a backup navigation
signal that supports RNP 0.3 performance and ADS-B requirements,"
and to propose a loran oversight council including the responsible
federal agencies and aviation navigation users.
Boyer did express his appreciation for the FAA's position that
ADS-B could result in cost savings for the airlines... and the
"What [ADS-B] also demonstrates is that the FAA can replace
an outdated technology costing billions with one costing millions,
which certainly calls into question the claim that the agency needs
more money to modernize the ATC system," said Boyer.