NBAA Convention News

FlightAware Expands ADS-B Network and Airborne Coverage

 - October 15, 2018, 9:00 AM

Flight tracking provider FlightAware (Booth 4959) is here at NBAA 2018 with two big coups. First, the company’s terrestrial ADS-B network expanded 35 percent in the first three quarters of 2018; and it now supports more than 19,000 terrestrial sites in nearly 190 countries. The company provides surface coverage at more than 1,000 airports and 2,000 FBOs and it has enabled its ADS-B receivers to capture mode-S weather data, including wind vector (direction and velocity) as well as outside air temperature and pressure. The mode-S update also captures autopilot settings and nav modes. FlightAware executives also announced here at the show that the company is now able to track aircraft anywhere in the world from engine start to shutdown, including taxi coverage. The company is calling its new ground-tracking program Ready-to-Taxi.

“Since most disruption happens while an aircraft is on the ground, there’s tremendous value in having insight into what’s going on before and after takeoff, particularly for our business aviation customers. That is why we designed the Ready-to-Taxi and surface location alert product,” said Daniel Baker, FlightAware founder and CEO.

The idea behind the ground tracking was to eliminate the excessive calls received by FBOs from flight departments, family, and executive staff asking for the status of aircraft, crew, and passengers. It also reduces the crew distraction in the cockpit during critical start-up, taxi and shutdown procedures (no more reams of text messages from the office).

Global ADS-B Coverage

The company’s second big announcement involved airborne coverage. Aireon space-based ADS-B wasn’t available to most business aviation operators. That ADS-B network covers the entire globe now, providing once-per-minute position updates, and FlightAware’s Global customers can now get it as part of their plan.

Combining Aireon space-based ADS-B with surface coverage from FlightAware’s sponsored ground network allows participating operators to track their aircraft from the moment the machine powers on at its point of departure to the second it parks at its destination FBO or airport. 

“For business aviation operators, this improves operational safety while supporting reliability and optimization,” Baker said. “We have a big team here at our booth to show the product working. Our Global customers can add it on and can start getting alerts and as soon as they look down at their phones here at NBAA. It’s instant gratification,” he told AIN.

FlightAware is dedicated to complete trackability (with the option to opt out, of course). The company has been providing free ADS-B receivers to ground sites all over the globe in an effort to complete its mission, which Baker says is essentially there. “We’ll provide any FBO that needs it with a free ground station they can just plug in,” he said.

The company is keeping extensive stats on ADS-B equipage in the U.S. Data provided to AIN by FlightAware shows that the rate of 2020-compliant ADS-B equipage is ratcheting up, from 41 percent of the turbine and turboprop fleet equipped in November 2017 to 57 percent operating in August 2018. FlightAware breakout data shows, for example, that while 81 percent of flying Beechcraft Super King Air 300s appear to be 2020-compliant, only 27 percent of the flying Bombardier Learjet 31 fleet appears equipped. It seems the older the model, the less likely the aircraft is to be modified with ADS-B. Most of the fleet, however, does appear to be modernizing at an increasing rate. This is in contrast to FAA data showing that only 2,823 Part 121 U.S. scheduled air carrier aircraft and 1,101 international air carriers were equipped with compliant ADS-B out installations as of September 1.