Report Details ADS-B Challenges

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The FAA's plan to implement ADS-B in the National Airspace System faces "significant risks and challenges," according to a report released last week by the Office of Inspector General for the Transportation Department. The number-one issue is the reluctance of those who use the airspace to purchase and install new avionics for their aircraft. "Users have raised justifiable concerns about evolving requirements and uncertain equipage costs and benefits," the report says. The FAA plans to mandate the use of "ADS-B out" by 2020, the report says, but that equipment essentially provides the same radar services currently available, "resulting in few new benefits to airspace users." Other challenges cited in the report include system integration and contract management issues, which the FAA must resolve to avoid further delays in the program.

One solution proposed by the report for the equipage problem might be for the FAA to provide tax incentives or find other ways to share the costs of the upgrades, at least for commercial users. "Cost-sharing mechanisms have merit because they help share risks between the government and airspace users," the report says. Until the FAA deals with the challenges to implementation, "the realization of ADS-B program goals will remain uncertain, and NextGen initiatives will be delayed," the report concludes. The FAA said it is already working with several airline partners to refine its ADS-B technology and will issue a report on its findings by Sept. 30, 2011.