I AM SAD TO REPORT TWO MORE FATAL ACCIDENTS HAVE OCCURRED DURING THE MONTH OF JUNE, BOTH ON THE SAME DAY. A ZENAIR CH601 DEPARTED DEER VALLEY ENROUTE TO AK-CHIN STRUCK THE VERY TOP OF A SMALL MOUNTAIN ABOUT 2 MILES NORTHEAST OF THE AK-CHIN AIRPORT AND WAS DESTROYED BY FIRE. THE PILOT/OWNER WAS FATALLY INJURED. THE SECOND ACCIDENT INVOLVED A RV-4 INBOUND TO THE SAFFORD AIRPORT. THE AIRCRAFT IMPACTED A HILLSIDE DURING THE APPROACH, AND THE SOLE PILOT ONBOARD WAS FATALLY INJURED. IRONICALLY, THE LATEST NTSB REPORT STILL ONLY SHOWS 2 FATAL ACCIDENTS SO FAR, BOTH EARLY THIS YEAR. WATCHING THE LATEST LOCAL NEWS IS STILL THE BEST WAY TO GET THE LATEST INFORMATION ON AIRCRAFT CRASHES. SAFETY WISE, 2020 IS STACKING UP VERY SIMILAR TO 2019. FOR INFORMATION ON ALL ACCIDENTS/INCIDENTS THAT OCCURRED LAST MONTH, REFER TO JIM TIMM’S ACCIDENT SUMMARY.
Enjoy staying safe–
Going flying, escaping into the beautiful wild blue yonder, is a great way to enjoy quarantine. But if you take your wife or a friend with you, don’t forget masks, wipe down your controls, avionics knobs, door handles, seat buckles, etc., and be sure to clean all of your headsets.
The following is a great article from Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine about the progress, implementation and results of the FAA’s ADS-B program and its progress in improving the quality of radar (sic) services.
(This article by Bill Carey reprinted with permission courtesy of Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine, June 15-29, 2020 issue, Victoria Watson, Client Services)
FAA Applies Its ‘Preferred’ Surveillance System
January marked a milestone in the FAAʼs implementation of automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast, a core program of the agency's long running NextGen modernization that complements radar with a satellite-based method of tracking aircraft, providing greater overall coverage, better accuracy and higher update rates. As of Jan. 1, the FAA required that aircraft flying in most U.S.-controlled airspace be equipped with transponders that continuously broadcast their GPS-derived position and identity to ground controllers, the function called automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) Out.
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The ADS-B ground infrastructure of 658 nationwide radio sites, owned and operated by L3Harris Technologies for the FAA, was completed in 2014. The FAA has integrated the system at 24 en route air traffic control (ATC) facilities and 155 terminal radar approach control (Tracon) facilities. In October 2019, the FAA said it had started using the surveillance system at
the last two of 155 airports to receive ADS-B: Akron-Canton Airport and Mansfield-Lahm Regional Airport, both in Ohio.
Then this year, the COVID-19 pandemic struck. President Donald Trump declared a national emergency on March 13, and four days later the FAA announced the first temporary closure of an ATC facility—the tower at Chicago Midway International Airport—after multiple technicians there tested positive for the coronavirus. The agency listed 50 ATC facilities that have been affected by the virus as of June 1.
The suppression of air travel caused by the pandemic must be considered in gauging the readiness of tens of thousands of aircraft operators for the ADS-B equipage mandate. But the FAA says it is pleased with the levels of compliance thus far, as indicated by the number of “ADS-B aircraft detected.” That figure, tracked by an ADS-B Performance Monitor at the FAA Technical Center near Atlantic City, New Jersey, represents the number of aircraft transmitting unique 24-bit International Civil Aviation Organization addresses to ground stations during the past two years.
As of June 1, the FAA had detected 126,825 aircraft that comply with ADS-B Out requirements. Of these, 105,247 were general aviation (GA) fixed-wing, experimental and light-sport aircraft and helicopters; 6,553 were airliners. The balance of 15,025 aircraft were counted as ADS-B-equipped but not revealed to the public by category, including U.S. military and government special-use aircraft, gliders and drones.
Under the equipment mandate, aircraft flying above 18,000 feet must be equipped with 1090ES Mode S extended squitter transponders to broadcast their position; lower-flying aircraft can use either 1090ES or Universal Access Transceivers (UAT) operating at 978 MHz. Of the total ADS-B-compliant aircraft detected, the FAA says, 99,047 were equipped with 1090ES Mode S transponders, 26,590 with UAT, and 1,188 with both 1090ES and UAT avionics. The FAA says approximately 100% of airliners are now ADS-B-equipped.
The number of GA aircraft detected (105,247) represents about 69% of the 153,000 GA airplanes, business jets, helicopters, experimental aircraft and light-sport aircraft that flew through ADS-B surveillance airspace before the mandate entered force—an estimate obtained from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.
The sharp decline in air traffic movements because of the coronavirus pandemic skews any evaluation of the promised safety and efficiency benefits of ADS-B, such as the capability the system provides to reduce aircraft separation standards in congested airspace. Nevertheless, the FAA has forged ahead with what it calls its “preferred” method of surveillance. Data from aircraft broadcasting by ADS-B is fused on controller displays with available information from primary radars, secondary surveillance radars (SSR) and multilateration stations.
“The public health emergency is definitely changing our environment every day,” says the FAA’s surveillance and broadcast services group manager. “The environment is so fluid, we are not drawing any conclusions and are evaluating [the system] over time, but ADS-B is providing support as usual. Our performance has not changed because of the health emergency.” The implementation of the ADS-B surveillance layer has provided the FAA with one benefit it can quantify: the opportunity to assess its existing radar “footprint” and remove radars in overlapping areas where they are no longer needed. Between fiscal 2020 and 2025, the agency plans to divest 14% of terminal area radars in the National Airspace System (NAS), which it estimates will save $400 million in operating, maintenance and sustainment costs through 2035.
Most radar sites are collocated primary and SSR facilities, and one or both radar types could be retired depending on a safety analysis. Safety and the ability to provide continuity of air traffic services in the areas served by radars will be “heavily looked at” in decisions to divest radars, an FAA program executive says.
In addition to the ADS-B equipage requirement that entered force in January, this year was also a pivotal year for the FAAʼs plan to reduce aircraft separations to 3 nm from 5 nm in the en route airspace, taking advantage of the ADS-B’s once per-second update rate. The FAA has already started applying 3-nm separations in the Boston and Seattle areas, the first two key sites of a planned nationwide expansion of the tighter separation standard over the next two years. Controllers apply the separations at Flight Level 230 (23,000 ft), the point at which air route traffic control centers (ARTCC) hand off aircraft to the Tracons.