...And Moving Capstone To The Lower 48

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The Australian program sounds a lot like one that's been running in the U.S. for almost a decade. "ADS-B is the backbone of the Alaska Capstone project," FAA spokesman Greg Martin told AVweb. Capstone is aimed at reducing Alaska's hugely disproportionate accident rate with the use of new, chiefly satellite-based navigation and weather technology. As in the Australian project, Alaska-based aircraft were outfitted with the gear and became flying test beds for application of the technology. The accident rate has fallen noticeably (other programs, including enhanced training for pilots, also share the credit) and Martin said it's time to spread those benefits around. "We now have to seriously look at applying that technology in the Lower 48 states," he said. John Carr, the head of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), agrees there are benefits to ADS-B but only if all aircraft are equipped. Although ADS-B can shift part of the onus for IFR separation to the cockpit, Martin said he doesn't see the system replacing or supplanting controllers. However, the role of the controller may change significantly from actively monitoring each aircraft in the sky to keeping watch on the electronic eyes and ears to make sure they're doing that job properly. Martin likened it to the telephone system that has evolved from requiring human intervention at every step involved in making a call to the automatic voice and data transmissions that occur worldwide today with virtually no human involvement.