"Free Flight" Hardware On UPS Planes

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What may be a major step toward the vaunted "free flight" system of air navigation may first help ensure you actually get your overnight package overnight. United Parcel Service has become the first carrier to get FAA certification for Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast systems to be installed on all 107 of its Boeing 757s and 767s. Using GPS, a computer and a radio transceiver, the system shows the pilot the exact whereabouts of other aircraft ... provided they also have ADS-B. The system allows the pilots of equipped aircraft to maintain from each other the minimum required separation even in bad weather, thus reducing flight delays. Typically, when the weather closes in, ground controllers increase separation from the mandatory three miles and 1,000 feet to provide an extra safety cushion. That leads to tie-ups in the sky and reduces the efficiency of freight-sorting facilities. UPS is projecting a 20-percent increase in efficiency in three years -- when you're processing more than 300,000 parcels per hour, that figure gains some perspective. ADS-B also caught the eye of the FAA officials trying to unclog the increasingly crowded skies. "ADS-B technology in itself crosses a lot of boundaries for us," FAA spokesman Charles Keegan said. "It could have a potentially huge impact on capacity." UPS's Aviation Technologies arm developed the system.