Future Flight

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IFR, Shmeye-Eff-Arr...

Working toward the "airplane in every garage" era, NASA and the FAA are making progress on the Small Aircraft Transportation System (SATS) designed to make it easier for more people to fly from small airport to small airport directly without relying on the airline hub system. At least five North Carolina airports are being fitted with experimental gear (including IMC-busting synthetic vision systems for small aircraft) and every airport in the state is slated to get an Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) setup. ADS-B uses a combination of satellite signals and ground stations to relay ATC radar images and provide appropriately equipped aircraft access to a real-time picture of nearby traffic. That helps with traffic avoidance, but the real goal of SATS is to allow small aircraft to use small airports in IMC. Synthetic Vision systems will be tested at the North Carolina airports to demonstrate their viability. Synthetic vision works by coupling GPS information to a terrain database to give the pilot a virtual depiction of the world outside. A system already developed by Chelton shows terrain, obstacles and airport layouts on a panel display that also incorporates instrument, navigation and weather data. The folks at Rocky-Mount Wilson Regional Airport, near Elm City, are delighted to be at the forefront of the next wave of aviation technology. "What it's going to do is give us and advantage of being a very convenient and accessible airport," said airport manager Hans Hess.