Tuesday, August 19, 2008

More on ADSB

I took my first trip to Oshkosh this year, absolutely amazing, but that is another story.

While there I went to a presentation by the FAA on ADSB. First I was surprised by the poor attendance at the presentation and I can offer no explanation why this would be so. Perhaps Americans are apathetic, perhaps they think 2020 is a long way away, or perhaps they don't understand the term "The devil is in the detail"

The FAA and other authorities are well into the roll out with contracts for ground stations signed and work progressing. The FAA asked for industry and pilot submissions and feedback and received over a 90 % NEGATIVE response. But as the roll out was so far advanced I personally got the distinct impression that this "consultation process" was purely only lip service so they could claim "We consulted with pilots and the industry" After the presentation I personally went up to the FAA presenter and talked to him privately. I asked him were there concerns about the extremely negative response. He told me "NO". He said there were 1271 negative and 101 positive submissions. He said they expected much more. Perhaps the American GA pilot fraternity may regret not responding more aggressively on this in the future. It could also be that, say an organization like the EAA with tens of thousands of members responded in the negative, and the FAA classed this as one negative response.

Now to the technical side of things. There are good and bad here. The "good" is this will not become compulsory until 2020 and like in Australia only the uplink (out) will become compulsory. It will only become compulsory above 10,000 ft and it will only apply to "high usage" airports listed in their document 41 CFR part 91

Now the bad. The compulsory (out) must be TSO'd (certified) and maintained by certificated technitions. It must be hard wired (with seal?) and must not be able to be turned off by the pilot. The current cost of available units by approved manufactures (Garmin being one) is US$10,000 PLUS instillation. Instillation alone is many thousands of dollars.

ADSB is to be considered a "primary" and it will also be compulsory to keep and maintain a "secondary" mode C transponder. New aircraft, or those wanting to fly in the ADSB airspace must fit and maintain both ADSB out and Mode C.

Also the current control "steps" will go and a wall will drop down from 10,000 feet to the surface with a radius of 30 miles. Here is some of that "devil in the detail" Those pilots who think they will be able to fly around the US at 1,000 to 5,000 ft and stay out of ADSB airspace by flying under the steps are in for a big shock. If you look at a US aviation chart and put a 30 mile radius around their "RPT" type airports you don't get much "free" airspace left, except in the desert, and the military have a big chunk of that.

Now for the "conspiracy people." Currently there is a big push in the US for "user fees" The Government wants to charge a $25 per flight user fee. This is being strongly resisted by the GA people and is currently held up in Congress and the Senate, but not defeated. President Bush has threatened a veto if some form of user fee on GA is not passed. With ADSB that can't be turned off their Airservices people will be able to not only charge a per flight fee but also a charge per mile fee. As the safety factor for pilots is the "IN" component, the conspiracy people may have a point here in that this is all about tax revenue and surveillance.

Everyone I spoke to including the FAA people privately acknowledge that the primary reason for ADSB is surveillance and income generation, and cost saving on new Radars.

The "conspiracy people" also believe (and this is something I never considered myself before) that it will allow the different US Government agencies to make extensive use of UAV's to fly all all over the US. For what purpose I am not sure.

I also saw ADSB "IN" working. You can currently buy ADSB IN and OUT for $20,000 However the manufactures said that the "IN" component will get very cheap due to competition and the fact that it doesn't have to be certified. It seems to me that if it has to be certified it becomes a license for the manufactures to print money. The massive extra amount they charge for a certified product seems to me, way out of proportion to the extra work of compliance.

We must be very vigilant here in Australia and be prepared to be very political. Once the Government installs a tax income stream it is very hard, if not impossible, to remove. If you don't believe this consider how hard it would be to get the State Governments to remove speed cameras where they are shown to have no safety benefit.

John McKeown