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Air traffic explosion PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 28 November 2008 11:13

It takes longer for an air carrier flight to get gate-to-gate today than it did twenty years ago. Why? Congestion. And the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) expects air traffic to triple by the year 2025. Everything from the new Airbus A380 just coming into service-which has greater separation requirements than other ‘heavies’- and with a flood of very light jets (VLJ) into the air space system, the air traffic system is on the verge of crisis.  

The answer to the problem is Automated Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B). ADS-B is a satellite based system that is more accurate than radar and will allow for tighter separation between aircraft. First tested at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla., the FAA has already begun implementation.  

ADS-B equipped aircraft broadcast their own GPS position to a ground receiver once per second. Air traffic controllers receive this information for a more accurate radar display (current radar separation minima are based on accuracy errors). The same information, along with weather, NOTAMS, and other aviation information can be broadcast back to the aircraft, allowing pilots to have much of the same information as the controllers. With this new system, separation minima can be reduced to as little as one mile (currently, separations requirements range from 3-5 miles, and can increase to as much as 20 miles en route when weather conditions exists).  

With time, the new system will allow for more direct routes and glide descents, saving airlines and air charters fuel and therefore, money. With the price of Jet-A up 400% from just a few years ago, any amount of fuel savings makes a large difference for the struggling airlines. FAA administrator Robert Sturgell announced last week that the first ADS-B system is up and running in Florida. “The next generation of air travel has arrived,” Sturgell boasted in a press release. The FAA has plans for nationwide use by 2013. ADS-B is also already being used in Alaska for precision approaches into high risk airports.   

Also contributing to the alleviation of air traffic, the FAA announced last week the opening of new runways at three major airports. The Washington Dulles, Chicago O’Hare and Seattle Tacoma airports each saw an addition of one runway, allowing for an additional 330,000 take-offs and landings each year. “These new runways are a testimony to the power of perseverance, the wisdom of foresight and the audacity of action,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters in a press release. There’s nothing a pilot likes more than to touch down or take off on a new slab of concrete,” said Sturgell about the new runways.

Last Updated on Friday, 28 November 2008 13:35