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New Technology Begins New Era in Aviation Safety

One of the most innovative air traffic tracking technology advancements since the advent of radar more than a half century ago begun in…

One of the most innovative air traffic tracking technology advancements since the advent of radar more than a half century ago begun in the Bethel area on January 1. In one of the busiest non-radar remote air traffic areas in Alaska, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA<.>) and its industry partners initiated the first use of the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) technology to track and service traffic in the areas that have no radar coverage.

The implications of using ADS-B for air traffic surveillance are extremely important for worldwide aviation safety since much of the world is without radar coverage, said Administrator Jane F. Garvey. This technology has the potential of filling in huge gaps in radar coverage including, vast areas in South America, Africa and in remote areas of the United States.

The use of ADS-B technology to track air traffic is another success in the FAA`s National Airspace System modernization plan to use satellite technology. ADS-B allows pilots in the cockpit and air traffic controllers on the ground to see aircraft traffic with much more precision than has been possible ever before. Radar works by bouncing radio waves off of airborne targets and then interpreting the reflected signal. ADS-B doesn`t need to interrogate targets to display them. Rather, it relies on the satellite-based global positioning system.

Each ADS-B equipped aircraft broadcasts its precise position in space via a digital datalink along with other data, including airspeed, altitude and, whether the aircraft is turning, climbing or descending. Unlike conventional radar, ADS-B works at low altitudes and is effective in remote areas or in mountainous terrain where there is no radar coverage, or where radar coverage is


This new system uses ground-based transceivers to pick up transmissions from ADS-B equipped aircraft. This information is then transmitted via phone line and satellite to Anchorage Air Route Traffic Control Center where it is displayed on controllers` screens.

Capstone is an FAA-industry-academic partnership borne out of the Alaskan Region`s desire to reduce aviation accidents and save lives. Capstone initiatives employ emerging technology in support of FAA`s goal to reduce aircraft accidents dramatically in Alaska and ultimately across the nation. Essentially, pilots will be able to have similar information in the cockpit that controllers have on the ground. FAA`s Capstone office is currently working on expanding Capstone coverage to Southeast Alaska.

Capstone partners include: the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Alaska Airman`s Association; Alaskan Aviation Safety Foundation; Alaska Air Carriers Association; Airline Pilot Association; United Parcel Service-Aviation Technologies; Cargo Airline Association; University of Alaska-Anchorage; MITRE Corporation; the Small Aircraft Manufacturering Association; Alaska State DOT Statewide Aviation Office; the United States Air Force and the Federal Aviation Administration. Numerous Alaskan organizations, air carrier owners, managers, mechanics, technicians, pilots and others have donated hundreds of hours to planning and designing the project with the FAA staff in Alaska and Washington, DC.

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