Northern next-gen?

Unless one has been flying without a radio in NORDO state for the last few years, most operators know that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA’s) Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast Out (ADS-B Out) mandate clock is ticking.

Satellite in orbit
Aireon’s satellite-based coverage will be central to any expansion of Canadian ADS-B Out. Iridium Communications Inc. Image
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Still controversial, and bigger than anything like it in the past, the FAA’s rule goes into effect in less than two years, with a deadline of Jan. 1, 2020.

U.S. ADS-B Out, the first chapter of FAA NextGen, practically affects every user of U.S. airspace at midnight on Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020.

It’s the FAA’s successor to tracking aircraft (and separating them) by radar. By the time this Skies arrives on your doorstep, around 460 working days will remain in the belated rush to equip aircraft with the necessary avionics. The bow wave of inquiries hit the avionics shops and OEMs by the end of 2017, yet generally for all sectors of aviation (commercial, biz av, GA), compliance remains well short of the needed pace of installations.

The FAA will not postpone the compliance date. The next two years are going to be very interesting.

CANADIAN PERSPECTIVE

Let’s switch to a Canadian frequency. Where are we with Canadian ADS-B Out deployment? Where are we going and how are we going to get there?

Nav Canada has already been providing surveillance separation in certain airspace using ADS-B Out technology since 2009. Early deployment started for ADS-B equipped aircraft in the Hudson Bay airspace, allowing for five-mile separation for the heavy Europe-West Coast traffic.

That was followed by more ground stations to expand coverage to Eastern Canada and four more ground stations in Greenland in 2012, which added ADS-B surveillance over a portion of the North Atlantic Track system. ADS-B equipped operators in this airspace today have the potential for preferred routes, speeds and altitudes, and corresponding reductions in fuel consumption.

Air Inuit plane in flight
While there seems little doubt about the benefits of ADS-B Out, northern operators are concerned about the financial burden of complying with a potential mandate. An Air Inuit spokesperson said the costs would be “significant.” Eric Dumigan Photo

Air navigation service providers (ANSPs) are motivated to adopt ADS-B because they can decommission expensive aging radars, and in the case of Canada it’s just not realistic to set up new radar sites in remote regions. By contrast, ADS-B sites are a fraction of the cost.

ADS-B technology also permits a faster update rate as seen at the controller’s station. Position accuracy based on the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) is better and the aircraft state and intent information from a modern WAAS navigator is advertised, allowing more aircraft to use our finite airspace with better safety and efficiency.

Within the framework of Canada’s Performance-based Navigation (PBN) State Plan, the Canadian Performance-based Aviation Action Team (CPAAT) recommended that Nav Canada carry out an aeronautical study on the potential benefits and challenges of an ADS-B Out mandate in accordance with CAR 806.

Consequently, Nav Canada is now conducting a study on a performance mandate for the use of ADS-B Out within Canadian domestic airspace.

Nav Canada’s aeronautical study process is now underway. Some preliminary analysis has been completed and customer and stakeholder forums will be held early this year. Once complete, the study with recommendations will go to the regulator, Transport Canada, which will make the final decision.

For operators in the Canadian North, an ADS-B Out equipment mandate would most likely impact operations.

“Having reviewed the system for a while now, I agree that it will be beneficial and will revolutionize the way aircraft are managed in controlled airspace,” said Duane Court, Air Inuit’s regulatory and compliance manager.

“Is Class G airspace going to receive a major overhaul once ADS-B Out gets mandated in Canada? At Air Inuit, despite having a 100 per cent WAAS-equipped fleet, the costs to upgrade to conform to the current FAA ADS-B Out mandate are significant,” he continued.

“For multiple reasons, some American aircraft operators have opted to equip with UATs [universal access transceivers], but will these aircraft receive complete coverage and meet future Canadian compliance when visiting or transiting through the Canadian North? Some of our aircraft have received the upgrade to meet the current FAA 2020 mandate; however, as we have aircraft based and operating only in the North, we anxiously await when, how and if a Canadian mandate will be imposed.”

The Canadian study’s terms of reference (TOR) exclude uncontrolled airspace, so that airspace likely will not fall under any mandate; however, flights seldom begin and end within that Class G airspace. Often, such flights route through another class of airspace where ADS-B equipment will become mandatory.

Man sits in front of monitor
ADS-B technology permits a faster update rate as seen at the controller’s station. Nav Canada Photo

The TOR refer to the U.S. FAA and other foreign ADS-B Out mandates. The FAA has mandated aircraft to be equipped to the guidance in the DO-260B MOPS for continued operation in Class A airspace (above FL180). An aircraft mod for this requirement typically includes: a supplemental type certificate (STC) or OEM service bulletin; TSO-C166b Extended-Squitter (ES) 1090 MHz Mode S transponders and controls; TSO-C146 SBAS/WAAS navigator (to meet data latency and integrity requirements); and flight deck annunciation to alert crew to the loss of ADS-B Out transmissions.

Other U.S. airspace operations will allow for use of lower-cost UAT equipment outside of FL180. (Even though it’s called a “Universal Access” transceiver, the 978 MHz UAT is actually less universal than the 1090 MHz ES transponder in terms of where it can fly and what airspace it can use.)

Also being taken into account are other foreign mandates, such as in Europe. That rule states that aircraft operating under instrument flight rules in Europe and with a maximum certified takeoff mass exceeding 5,700 kilograms, or having a maximum cruising true airspeed capability greater than 250 knots, will be required to carry and operate Mode S transponder(s) with Mode S Elementary Surveillance (ELS), Enhanced Surveillance (EHS) [for fixed-wing aircraft], and ADS-B 1090 MHz ES capabilities.

The cut-in date for this requirement is June 7, 2020, but that date is likely to soften and slip to the right. The reason for the slip seems to be some sort of epiphany within the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) at this late stage that there isn’t the same operational benefit in Europe, as there are no plans to decommission secondary surveillance radars (SSRs).

SPACE-BASED SOLUTION

Enter Aireon satellite-based ADS-B Out.

Nav Canada is a partner in the Aireon joint venture that has ADS-B receivers carried on the Iridium NEXT satellites. Aireon claims that space-based ADS-B surveillance will bypass the limitations of ground-based secondary surveillance radar (SSR), wide area multilateration (WAM) and ground-based ADS-B surveillance systems, and will be fully operational this year.

Aireon will be central to any expansion of Canadian ADS-B Out coverage.

Airplane in flight
Aireon claims that space-based ADS-B surveillance will bypass the limitations of ground-based secondary surveillance radar (SSR), wide area multilateration (WAM) and ground-based ADS-B surveillance systems, and will be fully operational this year. Jan Jasinski Photo
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The receiver package of the NEXT satellites can be thought of as a replacement for the land-based receivers deployed and operational for the U.S. and existing Canadian ADS-B Out infrastructure. The payloads will receive ADS-B Out signals broadcast from aircraft equipped with 1090 MHz extended-squitter ADS-B transponders, which operate on the same frequency as traditional Mode A/C/S transponders. UAT operates at a different frequency and won’t be supported by Aireon.

Heavy turboprop and turbofan operators are already TCAS-equipped, which required diversity (think antenna on top) Mode S transponders. They’ll be able to see the satellites. The upgrade path for that configuration is in most cases straightforward (to extended-squitter diversity transponders).

Northern and remote operators could benefit in other ways when they equip with ADS-B Out. In uncontrolled airspace there is a certain reliance on monitoring TCAS traffic; there will be more visibility now between those systems.

Aireon states it will provide (at no additional cost to registered users) the location and track of ADS-B equipped aircraft to assist in search and rescue, if required.

COST AND BENEFITS

What does it cost to equip with ADS-B Out? That depends on what is already installed in the aircraft.

Using a “needs everything” case of a regional aircraft or a turbofan business aircraft imported into Canada and being prepared for entry-into-service, installed DO-260B ADS-B Out equipage costs could approach US$250,000 in total, assuming it has neither a WAAS navigator nor the required 1090 ES transponders.

Aircraft already equipped with a WAAS navigator and merely needing to fit the 1090 ES transponders with an STC package may fall into the US$100,000 range.

Jeff Cochrane, Nav Canada’s director of navigation and airspace, said the ANSP has been careful about the timing of the work they are doing through the aeronautical study, holding on until experts were confident of the benefits, efficiencies and potential for cost reductions associated with an expansion of ADS-B Out.

What does the future look like? Best guess might be a change to Canadian airspace to require DO-260B 1090ES ADS-B Out after the U.S. date, with the majority of commercial and corporate aircraft already equipped as driven by the FAA mandate.

Any C-registered operator wanting to run scheduled, charter or corporate flights into the U.S., as well as special ops such as medevacs, will have necessarily equipped to meet regulations south of the border. Additionally, it is sometimes easy to forget that the shortest distance between two points in Canada is often through U.S. airspace!

One interesting point is that there isn’t a lot of visible discussion or demand yet for early avionics conversion incentive programs. Good examples are the FAA’s ADS-B Out rebate program for general aviation and the Localizer Performance with Vertical Guidance (LPV) early adopters’ funding in Europe, where the satellite services provider is contributing many millions of Euros to commercial carriers to offset EGNOS (Europe’s WAAS) LPV installations costs. In business as in life, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Operators might be well advised to keep up with the discussions on a potential Canadian mandate. You can assess whether ADS-B Out benefits are in sync with your operational costs, which impact your business.

You have opportunities to state your case.

Norm Matheis is a senior avionics sales and marketing professional and an AME E.

One thought on “Northern next-gen?

  1. Thank you for a good summary of what is on the Canadian ADS-B horizon for airline operators. Unfortunately there is very little in the TOR for General Aviation. It is as if the segment doesn’t exist. According to COPA, there are some 30,000 GA private aircraft; 15,000 of those are amateur built (and growing). A lot of us in the GA sector have spent money to get FAA 2020 compliant solutions, not just to fly in the States, but for the very clear safety benefits. Traffic avoidance and in-flight weather with UAT/1090 solutions are clear winners for us. I spent $2000 on my UAT dual band solution, however a friend of mine paid over $30,000 for an excellent 1090 Garmin solution. Although both of these are FAA2020 compliant, neither one will work with the Aireon requirements. (top antenna with 125W ERP on 1090)
    The Aireon only solution has some real holes from the “bottom-up” perspective. Without a comprehensive network solution, there is going to be little buy-in by GA. The Recreational Aircraft Association of Canada (RAA) has contacted Jeff Cochrane of Nav Canada and we have had a cordial interchange but there are fundamental shortcomings in the AIreon only solution implied in the TOR. There is clearly some more work required before Canadian operators can look at equpping with ADS-B. Without ADS-B on GA platforms, how can we expect safe skies?
    Lee Coulman

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