The Federal Aviation Administration will not relent from requiring operators in the U.S. to equip their aircraft for automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) by 2020, the agency’s deputy administrator Michael Whitaker told an industry-government committee. The ADS-B equipage mandate is the next major milestone of the agency’s NextGen ATC modernization effort, he said.
“To keep that milestone on track, we need to keep that mandate,” Whitaker told the 13th plenary meeting of the NextGen Advisory Committee (NAC), held on October 8 in Washington, D.C. “It’s one of the key components of NextGen. We are communicating clearly and unequivocally that there is no intention of moving the mandate.”
Whitaker’s remarks echoed those FAA Administrator Michael Huerta made a week earlier at the Air Traffic Control Association conference and follow a critical audit of the ADS-B program by the Department of Transportation inspector general’s office, released in September.
The IG found that the initial benefits of ADS-B Out service will be limited and that equipage is lagging; according to FAA estimates, only 3 percent of major air carriers and 10 percent of general aviation users have thus far equipped. Meanwhile, more advanced ADS-B In avionics, which are not currently mandated, will be difficult to certify and prove with airlines through demonstration projects. “FAA states that future investment decisions will focus more on the advanced capabilities of ADS-B and significantly improve the cost/benefit ratio for the program, but it remains uncertain how and when FAA will implement these capabilities and at what cost,” the IG said.
The FAA has scheduled a “call to action” at its headquarters on October 28 to raise awareness about the ADS-B equipage mandate, determine if avionics suppliers and repair stations are prepared to meet it, and seek direction on the policy guidance required from the agency.
Whitaker, the FAA’s second-ranking executive after Huerta, has overall responsibility for the NextGen program and serves as the designated federal official on the NAC, an RTCA-organized committee that first met in 2010. He announced that his next industry counterpart will be Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson, who will succeed former Alaska Air Group chair Bill Ayer as chairman of the NAC.
At the same meeting, the NAC recommended four priority areas—multiple runway operations, data communications, performance based navigation and airport surface data sharing—and target locations to demonstrate early NextGen efficiency and fuel-saving benefits to airlines.