ITT wins ADS-B contract

 - September 26, 2007, 11:34 AM

The FAA awarded to ITT in August an 18-year, $1.8 billion contract to provide nationwide automatic dependent surveillance- broadcast (ADS-B) service through- out the National Airspace System. ITT will design, build, install, operate and maintain that critical element of the FAA’s NextGen infrastructure, with the agency’s involvement limited to certification and operational oversight.

Phase one is a $207 million, six-year contract to install 749 ADS-B ground stations across the U.S. by 2013. The first three years will cover equipment development, production and installation of 300 stations by 2010 at priority locations covering the Gulf of Mexico; Louisville, Ky.; Philadelphia; and Alaska. After FAA certification (forecast for 2010), the production and installation of the remainder of the systems is scheduled by 2013. Once certification is achieved, the FAA will pay ITT an annual “subscription fee” of around $100 million.

Teams led by ITT, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon had competed for the contract, but at a media briefing announcing the award, acting Administrator Robert Sturgell stated that ITT offered “the best value and least risk.” Washington sources told AIN that ITT’s bid was “very strong,” particularly in its responses to the FAA’s line-by-line scrutiny of each team’s offering against the contract specification.

ITT’s proposal also included the existing, and extensive, U.S.-wide communications network of its AT&T team member, reportedly a powerful advantage. One source noted that, following the explosion of cellphone usage, AT&T had erected “thousands” of cellphone towers on company-owned, secure locations across the country, all capable of carrying an ADS-B antenna, connected to its small ground station below.

Other Contract Bidders

At press time, the FAA had completed its debriefing of the unsuccessful bidders–Lockheed Martin and Raytheon–after which either could lodge a protest.
According to an FAA source, neither Lockheed Martin nor Raytheon was likely to attempt to overturn the decision.

To many observers, Lockheed Martin appeared at first to be the likely winner, having signed both Sensis and Era–the leading ADS-B ground station manufacturers–as team members. AIN has learned that the FAA believes the company’s nationwide communications offering to be less capable than AT&T’s network. In addition, Lockheed Martin’s difficulties with the FAA’s FSS contract possibly led to Congressional concerns about private control of a key future ATC component.

Raytheon’s proposal, based on replacing the FAA-developed UAT ADS-B general aviation datalink with the internationally standardized 1090ES link was, according to another government source, “just too innovative.” Many observers felt that discontinuing UAT, which is unique to the U.S., and moving to 1090ES would have been more beneficial to general aviation over the long term.

At press time, the next step in the ADS-B program was the FAA’s ADS-B equipage NPRM, scheduled to be issued late last month. Insiders believed the NPRM would call for mandatory carriage of full system capabilities around 2018 for operations above certain altitudes across the National Airspace System and at all altitudes in certain airspace classes, and with limited capabilities required elsewhere and possibly no requirement for certain aircraft types. Here, full capabilities refers to ADS-B in, where pilots receive and have displays of all ADS-B-equipped aircraft in the vicinity, with each shown on the cockpit screen with its ID, position, heading, speed and whether climbing, descending or level. The ADS-B in unit would also “squitter” the same data
to other aircraft, once per second. A limited-capability installation would carry ADS-B out, which would squitter such data to advise others of its presence and intent, but would not receive and display signals from them.

At the FAA media briefing, an agency official stated that ADS-B out systems could cost around $7,000, while an ADS-B in system would be around $15,000, uninstalled. One private aircraft owner, who did not wish to be named, told AIN that ADS-B out seemed to offer him little more benefit than his current Mode A/C transponder, although his carriage of an out  unit would undoubtedly be beneficial to larger aircraft and air traffic controllers. He noted that Australia’s ADS-B transition program will pay for both the purchase and installation of ADS-B out avionics and new GPS receivers in all private and commercial aircraft with an mtow of less than 12,500 pounds. Financing the purchase and installation of ADS-B equipment in all private and commercial aircraft with an mtow of less than 12,500 pounds is expected to be a hot-button issue in the NPRM response period.