If you’ve never heard of ADS-B or seen how it shows what’s sharing airspace with you, you need to get together with Todd Sprague of PC Avionics.
He can show how his software and an ADS-B box aboard your airplane can enhance your safety exponentially.
ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast) tracks all air traffic around you and displays it in the cockpit. Beyond that, however, it displays vectors and shows what traffic you need to watch out for. The vector arrows are color coded to indicate the level of concern you should show.
ADS-B sees other ADS-B-equipped aircraft, which also see you; it tracks all transponder-equipped traffic; and it displays aircraft being painted by ground-based radar. The only problem is that ADS-B coverage doesn’t yet exist across large parts of the country. Today, it’s primarily in Alaska, thanks to the Capstone program, and along the East Coast, but is being actively promoted by AOPA, NASA, the Small Aircraft Transportation System (SATS) consortium and, to some extent, the FAA.
We saw an impressive display of ADS-B’s capabilities at Sun ‘n Fun in April when, during an F-22 “Raptor” flight demonstration, we watched on the ADS-B display at Sprague’s booth, which was connected to an ADS-B antenna on the hangar roof.
Roar. Click. “There, 516 knots at 600 feet,” Sprague said, pointing to the fast-moving icon.
Roar. Click. “That one’s doing 300 knots at 800 feet,” as its icon raced across the screen.
Roar. Click. “He shows 594 knots at 1,000 feet.”
Fascinating, of course, but imagine yourself at the same altitude as something closing with you at 594 knots – or even 150 knots, which you’re much more likely to encounter. Without Flight Following you might never know that traffic was around. Think about being able to see how fast, how high and in what direction all the airplanes around you are flying. If that mental image appeals to you, you’ll want ADS-B in your plane.
Sprague’s software doesn’t stop at ADS-B, however. It also provides weather and a whole lot of other information in a single package, without costly subscription fees and easily-overlooked but crucial updates.