It was not exactly unexpected, but ADS-B has been deemed officially fit for prime time. Acting FAA Administrator Bobby Sturgell announced a nationwide rollout of ground stations yesterday in a speech before the Aero Club in Washington. (Press release here.)
In the short term, the biggest beneficiary of this “in-service decision” will be system integrator ITT, which had the main contract for installation at a series of 11 test sites around the Miami ARTCC. (More details about the business angle in this article from flightglobal.)
In his remarks, Sturgell lamented the state of public perceptions around NextGen, and especially around the FAA’s ability to manage complex projects in a timely fashion:
We’re dealing with claims like “NextGen won’t be here until 2025” or “NextGen’s just a slogan.” I think that talk comes to a halt today. [..] In just a little more than a year following the ADS-B contract award, we’re in the position to give it the green light. On budget. On schedule. This decision clears the way for the installation of ground stations, and to transmit broadcasts for operational use across the nation. We’ll start on both coasts and portions of the Midwest. 310 ground stations are scheduled to be operational by 2010.
At the same time, we’re setting up key sites for ADS-B testing for surveillance. We’re going to use the Gulf of Mexico, Philadelphia, Juneau and Louisville. And once the test is completed, we follow closely at additional key sites, like New York.
By 2013, we’ll have 794 ground stations to complete the deployment, covering everywhere that you find radar today. And also in places like the Gulf and the mountains of Alaska, where there is no radar coverage.
I said a moment ago that the critics contend that NextGen is a slogan. This is the order to accept the system — to commission it. Vinny Capezzuto’s group has tested ADS-B ten ways from Sunday, and it works. The top safety expert, Nick Sabatini, says it’s a go. The COO is a former airline pilot, and he’s giving it thumbs up. Consider ADS-B operational on November 24, 2008, at 10:15 a.m.
The four sites that Sturgell referenced (Gulf of Mexico, Philadelpha, Juneau, Louisville) are interesting in that the technology being tested there represents the next frontier for ADS-B. These so-called “critical services” are intended to provided GPS-based aircraft position data to controllers, in order to help achieve correct separation. Theoretically, this will eventually allow the FAA to eliminate secondary radar in some locations.