ADS-B, “The Future Of ATC,” Taken Offline In Alaska


In Alaska, where the risks of flying in all that empty space and bad weather are well-known, the Capstone program has been soundly successful, reducing accidents by up to 47 percent. Yet a vital part of that program, the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) surveillance technology, has been taken offline by the FAA at the Anchorage radar center. Controllers now provide separation for IFR flights outside radar coverage zones “procedurally,” meaning they have no actual blips on the screen to indicate position. The option is less efficient and less safe than ADS-B. So why was ADS-B, which is due for statewide implementation later this year, and which was recently lauded by the FAA as “the future of air traffic control,” taken offline?

ADS-B transmits an aircraft’s identity, position, velocity and intent to other aircraft and to ATC systems on the ground, thereby enabling pilots and controllers to have a common picture of airspace and traffic. On May 2, the FAA said in a press briefing that ADS-B provides better coverage than radar and is safer and more efficient. It also allows for increased capacity, “because the more accurate tracking means aircraft will be able to fly safely and more predictably with less distance between them.” Numerous studies and reports in the past have affirmed the benefits of the system. Prior safety assessments have supported its expansion. In April, the Alaska Air Carriers Association gave an award to the FAA Alaska region to recognize employees’ ingenuity and inventiveness in designing the Capstone program. “ADS-B is the backbone of the Alaska Capstone project,” FAA spokesman Greg Martin told AVweb just last October. AOPA also supports the expansion of ADS-B for GA aircraft, saying it’s the “smart” choice — simpler, more precise and less expensive than radar.