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GPS soars high with FAA
The FAA’s goal is to mandate placement of GPS-based equipment in all planes, including general aviation, by 2020. That’s raised hackles among some general-aviation pilots, especially those whose small airplanes are under $40,000 in value. The reason? If they install the gear necessary for full ADS-B service in a plane today, it can cost as much as $16,000, critics and ITT both acknowledge.
“One of the challenges is to drive down the cost of equipage,” said Michael F. Wilson, president of ITT’s Advanced Engineering & Sciences unit, which is in charge of the program.
That’s a view shared by Randy Kenagy, chief of staff for the government affairs division of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association in Frederick, Md., which claims 400,000 members in the general-aviation community. He wants to see costs for gear go down and the range of coverage increase.
“We would like to see ADS-B signals put in place at the thousands of general aviation airports,” Mr. Kenagy said. “We believe FAA can take some steps to make the electronics much more affordable.”
Some of those steps might be taking shape in McLean at a laboratory run by the MITRE Corp. There, Robert C. Strain is principal investigator for a project to develop low-cost ADS-B avionics for gliders, small rockets and unmanned aircraft. One prototype would have a materials cost of $375 in quantities of 1,000 units, he said, and the possibility exists for other makers to develop products that meet FAA standards and don’t break the budgets of weekend pilots, of which Mr. Strain said he’s one.
“I think pilots in general are interested in traffic awareness and their personal safety, at a price they think is affordable,” Mr. Strain said. “There’s an opportunity for some entry-level equipment if we can get some regulatory guidance and they don’t proliferate in a manner that creates an unsafe situation.”
The FAA’s Mr. Capezzuto empathizes on the cost issue but says safety is also a concern.
“The [National Transportation Safety Board] has been making recommendations for helicopter and general-aviation groups in Alaska that they equip with this [system] post haste,” he said. “It provides value; you’re flying knowing where you are and the grounds are and the other aircraft are.”
Mr. Capezzuto said once final rules for ADS-B system implementation are published in April 2010, “manufacturers will ramp up because it’s real, and that will drive the price down.”
About the Author
Mark A. Kellner is a religion columnist for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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