FAA navigation tool shows promise
- By Paula Shaki Trimble
- Oct 31, 2000
FAA's Free Flight program
A satellite-based navigation and communications tool that could significantly
improve the safety and capacity of the National Airspace System showed promise
during testing last week.
The tests, known as OpEval-2, were co-sponsored by the Federal Aviation
Administration and the Cargo Airlines Association and were conducted Oct.
26-28 in Louisville, Ky. They are part of the FAA's Safe Flight 21 program,
which examines emerging technologies and procedures that could lead to greater
safety and efficiency of air travel and control.
Last week's tests involved Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast,
which uses Global Positioning System satellites to obtain data about the
position of an aircraft and automatically broadcast the position information
to air traffic controllers and pilots.
ADS-B is one of the technologies expected to lead to Free Flight, which
will give pilots greater freedom in choosing direct routes and help controllers
use airspace more efficiently. For pilots, ADS-B provides a previously unavailable
picture of other nearby aircraft. For controllers, it gives a consolidated
picture of the airspace, particularly aircraft operating in areas not covered
In Louisville, the FAA and UPS Aviation Technologies successfully evaluated
how ADS-B could help optimize final approach and departure as well as work
with surface maps to help improve runway safety. The first operational evaluation
tested equipment operability and the user interface with the hardware.
However, many questions remain, an FAA spokeswoman said. "These operational
evaluations are designed to answer questions we do not know yet as well
as answer them through future OpEvals," she said.
A preliminary report based on the data collected in Louisville is expected
in mid-December, with a final report in a few months, the spokeswoman said.
Another operational evaluation will be conducted with Federal Express in
late spring in Memphis, Tenn.
The test results will be used to determine what the FAA still needs
to do, such as addressing user interface issues, to make ADS-B usable, she
said. For instance, pilots should be looking out the window more than they
are looking at the display. Air traffic controllers also need to have the
proper symbols and colors on their displays.