Committee: ADS-B ‛In’ Not Currently Justified

 - November 21, 2011, 10:45 AM
ADS-B In will enable pilots to see air traffic on a cockpit display. (Courtesy: Honeywell)

Operators in the U.S. are required to equip their aircraft for automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) “Out” capability by 2020. But an advisory committee chartered by the FAA has said it does not support an equipage mandate for corresponding ADS-B “In” capability at this time because the investment in displays and onboard computing cannot be justified.

The report of the ADS-B In aviation rulemaking committee (ARC), released November 17, recommends that the FAA use operational demonstrations by airlines—including US Airways, United-Continental, UPS and JetBlue Airways—to further develop equipment standards, certification guidance and approvals needed for ADS-B In. It says the FAA should prioritize ADS-B In applications by order of maturity and operational impact, starting with cockpit display of traffic information (CDTI)-assisted visual separation, which should be readied for implementation in 2012 using current avionics. Traffic situation awareness with alerts and oceanic in-trail procedures follow in 2013.

“Based on currently available cost/benefit information, the ADS–B In ARC concludes there is not a positive business case for air carrier or general aviation operators for widespread ADS–B In implementation in the near- or mid-terms,” the committee report states. “The ARC recommends the FAA clearly demonstrate that equipage benefits are indeed both achievable and operationally implementable in a cost-effective manner, including operations in a mixed equipage environment.” 

The FAA in May 2010 published a final rule requiring ADS-B “Out,” the capability of an aircraft to regularly broadcast its GPS-derived position to the ground for air traffic control purposes, by 2020. ADS-B In is the ability to display proximate air traffic in the cockpit for pilots’ situational awareness and dynamic spacing applications.

The ADS-B In ARC, chaired by Steven Brown of NBAA and Thomas Hendricks of the Air Transport Association of America, was formed in June 2010 to recommend a strategy for incorporating ADS-B In. The ARC worked with Airbus and Boeing to estimate the avionics equipage cost of ADS-B In. For near-term situational awareness applications, as opposed to more sophisticated applications, operators would have to spend $130,000 to $290,000 to forward fit aircraft; $270,000 to $425,000 to retrofit production aircraft; and $490,000 to $700,000 to retrofit out-of-production aircraft.