Safety Concerns Cited About Safety System

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Sue Gardner, manager of the FAA Capstone program in Alaska, told AVweb on Tuesday that ADS-B was removed from radar screens as of March 24, "because it appeared controllers were operating outside the scope of their authorization to separate the traffic." Why that became a concern at this point, when the system has been in operation since 1999, she wouldn't say. The decision was made after a team from Washington conducted a "safety assessement" in Alaska and "took [ADS-B] off the glass," Gardner said. Geoffrey Basye, FAA spokesman in Washington, D.C., told AVweb last night that "this is a case of growing pains." The project is continuing to expand, and has had temporary bumps in the road before, he said. "The issue remaining has to do with the provision of ATC services in a mixed environment of ADS-B and radar returns. We want to include this as part of the program's authorization but have some short-term (two months) analysis to do. In the interim, we have to limit temporarily the information available on the controllers' scopes." Other ADS-B services remain available, he said. "Users are getting traffic information services, flight following, etc." Also new ground units that are due to go online in the next month will be implemented on schedule, he said, and will provide expanded ADS-B services.

Gardner also said that some parts of the system that were taken offline at first have been restored. The tower at Bethel, for example, uses ADS-B for "situational awareness," not IFR separation, so that is back in operation. Basye said that there is not a problem with the ADS-B technology. He said there are "minor glitches" regarding the mix of ADS-B with current technology that need to be resolved.