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Author: Tom George (page 1 of 12)

More GPS Interference Testing in Alaska

The military will again be conducting GPS testing out of Restricted Area 2205, east of Eielson Air Force Base, November 12-17, 2017.  This activity will be conducted at night, between the hours of 06Z and 16Z (Starting on November 11th, 9 pm Alaska Daylight Time, running till 7 am daily for five days).  A look at the chart accompanying this notice, issued by the FAA Joint Frequency Management Office Alaska, shows that effects could be widespread.

Map of potentially impacted area from upcoming GPS Testing.

If you experience any GPS anomalies, in addition to notifying ATC, please share that information with AOPA by sending an email to: [email protected].  Details including aircraft type, location, altitude, and the nature of the anomaly would help us track this issue.

While these hours of operation represent the maximum extent that “testing” may be conducted, we expect actual activities may be of shorter duration.  ATC will be notified by the military before testing on a given day is started, and when it has been concluded, so a call to Anchorage Center may provide a better idea of what to expect during these days.  As always, please check NOTAMS for any changes regarding this activity.

At the Alaska Civil Military Aviation Council meeting earlier this week, we were advised that each of the Red Flag Exercises being planned for the coming year will include GPS Interference activities.  AOPA will continue to monitor this activity and its impacts on civil aviation, as we continue to advance into the era of satellite based navigation.

Link to the notice:  JFAK 17-03 GPS Flight Advisory

Alaska Aircraft Registration Program Proposed

The Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities (DOT) has released draft regulations proposing an Aircraft Registration Program.  If adopted, this regulation requires aircraft owners to complete a registration application and pay an annual fee of $150 for non-commercial aircraft, or $250 for aircraft used in commerce.  Exemptions would exist for aircraft primarily operating in interstate commerce, or to foreign countries.  Aircraft transiting the state are also exempt, along with those owned by the federal government or unmanned aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds.  A waiver could be obtained for dismantled or not airworthy aircraft, or aircraft registered in other states, and not in Alaska for more than 180 days a year.  Details are available: https://aws.state.ak.us/OnlinePublicNotices/Notices/View.aspx?id=187638

Analysis of the proposal
While no one wants to see the cost to fly increase, the state’s financial situation is serious, with the decline of oil revenues that have funded about 90% of state services for several decades.  While reducing their operating budget 22% since 2015, there is still a huge deficit to operate the 240 airports owned by DOT.  The Governor’s Aviation Advisory Board looked at options to increase revenues, and supported increasing the aviation motor fuel tax, as the most efficient way to improve the situation, without expanding state government. See “Alaska Aviation Motor Fuel Tax Increase Under Discussion” for more details.

In a recent poll conducted by AOPA, the Alaska Airmens Association and the National Business Aviation Association, pilots across the state favored the motor fuel tax increase over either a registration fee or landing fees, although a significant number of people responding commented that they opposed any increased fees or taxes.

Please share your comments on this proposal with AOPA, as we navigate these challenging times to find the right balance to support aviation in Alaska.

To comment on this regulation
There are several ways to comment on this proposal.  DOT will hold three hearings to take comments on the proposed regulation:

  • November 9th   1st Floor Conference Room
    Alaska DOT&PF
    3132 Channel Drive, Juneau
  • November 14th  Airport Response Center
    Fairbanks International Airport
    5195 Brumbaugh Blvd, Fairbanks
  • November 20th Central Region Main Conference Room
    Alaska DOT&PF
    4111 Aviation Ave, Anchorage

Comments may also be submitted by mail to:
Rich Sewell, Aviation Policy Planner
Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities
PO Box 196900
Anchorage, AK 99519

Or via email to:  [email protected]   Please send AOPA a copy of your comments by emailing them to: [email protected]

Comments must be received by 5:00 pm Alaska Standard Time on January 5, 2018.

Help bring new Aviation Icing Products to Alaska

New weather products have been developed to diagnose and forecast inflight icing for Alaska.  Staff from the FAA’s Aviation Weather Demonstration and Evaluation (AWDE) Services Program will be in Alaska, October 16-19, and would like to talk with pilots to help determine how these new products will work in the Alaskan environment.  The information they gather from pilots (General Aviation, Air Taxi and Commercial (Part 121/135), Air Ambulance/Helicopter Emergency Medical Services) will enable FAA to assess the utility and suitability in our operational setting.

Background
Forecasting icing has long been a challenge in Alaska, with our complex terrain, large size, and extremely limited network of surface observations.  Over the past few years research sponsored by the FAA Aviation Weather Program, and conducted by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), has led to development of an Icing Product Alaska-Diagnosis (IAP-D) and an IPA-Forecast (IAP-F) product. These are intended to improve diagnosis and forecasting of icing probability, severity, and probability of super-cooled large droplet (SLD) formation. These products, once validated, are expected to support decision making regarding the areas icing will occur, and the identification of optimum routes for air traffic.

How you can help
The FAA evaluation team will be in these communities on the following dates:

Anchorage, Oct 16-18
Fairbanks, October 18
Juneau, October 19

They would like to understand how these new icing products would be used operationally, learn about pilot strategies for making go-no-go decisions, user risk thresholds and generally assess the overall suitability of the new products.   Pilots should expect to spend about an hour in an interview with a team member.  If you are able to help with this program, you may “sign up” through an online survey.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ZT3ZPSD

For more information, contact Sonia Alvidrez [email protected] or 609-485-7613.

HAARP Project under new management: Watch for the TFR

The High-Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) is a research program that has been used to study the ionosphere since 1990. The facility, north east of the Gulkana Airport, is home to radio transmitters and an array of antennas that can transmit 3.6 megawatts of energy into the atmosphere, in support of research projects.  It doesn’t operate very often, a few times per year at present, but when it does, pilots don’t want to be in the path of this beam of radio energy.  Consequently, we should be on the lookout for a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) that will be activated during campaigns, to avoid flying over the facility.  The next campaign is from September 21-25, but there will be others to follow.  Make sure to check NOTAMs, in case this TFR is active when you are flying in the Copper River Basin, or transiting the area to or from the Alaska Highway route to Canada.

Social media notice of the September research campaign at the HAARP facility near Gakona. Watch for a TFR when the facility is in operations.

What is HAARP?
Located about 16 nautical miles northeast of the Gulkana Airport (GKN), the facility houses a 33-acre array of antennas, and when operating, can send pulses of energy into the upper reaches of the atmosphere to stimulate this zone, providing a means to study what happens there. Research has potential implications for understanding properties ranging from the aurora to long-range communications. Until recently, the Air Force operated the facility, in support of Department of Defense research interests, primarily dealing with communication and navigation interests.  In 2015, the facility was transferred to the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Geophysical Institute to operate.  For more information on the facility, see the frequently asked questions document at http://gi.alaska.edu/haarp/faq.

Why a TFR?
AOPA has followed the operation of the HAARP facility for many years, primarily out of concerns with possible disturbance to aircraft navigation and/or communications systems. While managed by the Air Force, operations were conducted as a Controlled Firing Area (CFA), meaning that the Air Force had to shut down their transmitter if an aircraft came within a prescribed distance.  They used a radar system to detect aircraft and shut down the transmitter if an aircraft got too close.  When the Geophysical Institute took over operations, FAA re-examined those procedures and decided that the CFA was not adequate, in part due to the high-altitude nature of the impacts. The TFR language is expected to define an area from the surface to FL250.

The HAARP Facility north east of the Gulkana Airport, will have a TFR protecting the airspace around the facility when in operations, similar to this graphic. Check NOTAMs for details and active times.  Map courtesy of SkyVector.com

The HAARP Project has re-established a phone number that pilots may call during times the facility is operating.  They have also temporarily re-established a VHF radio frequency, to allow pilots to contact the facility while airborne. These mechanisms should allow pilots operating in the area to have a direct line of communication to obtain more detailed information than the NOTAM is expected to contain, given the real-time nature of changes in the experimental world.  AOPA has also requested that the facility be charted on the Anchorage Sectional, to make it easier for pilots to become familiar with the location of the facility.  In addition to a NOTAM for a TFR, during operations pilots may call the HAARP site, near Gakona, at 907-822-5497, or on VHF radio frequency 122.25 MHz.  Information will also be available on Facebook and Twitter at @uafhaarp.

Stay tuned for more information as the transition from Air Force to university operations proceed. And make sure to check NOTAMs to find out when the TFR is activated.

Alaska Governor recognizes role of aviation

Governor Bill Walker has declared September to be Aviation Appreciation Month in Alaska.  In his proclamation, the Governor recognized some of the ways that aviation stands out here:

  • Providing access to 82 percent of the communities in the state—that are not connected to our sparse road system
  • As operating 242 airports across the Alaska, more than any other state in the nation
  • Supporting the economy, not only by providing basic transportation infrastructure, but by generating almost 17,000 jobs tied to the airports at Anchorage and Fairbanks alone.
  • Including backcountry airstrips among the components of the aviation infrastructure important to Alaska

Please join us in celebrating aviation during the month of September, with thanks to the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities staff who plan, design, build and operate airports; municipal governments that manage airports in their communities; maintenance facilities, parts suppliers, flight schools, aviation organizations and many other stakeholders that keep us flying!

 

Alaska Backcountry Airstrip Survey Results

Earlier this spring, Alaska pilots were invited to take part in a survey regarding backcountry airstrips. I am pleased to report that 245 of you took the time to respond – thank you to those of you that responded. This information helps provide some measure of the importance of these airstrips to Alaska’s transportation system. The people who participated also shed some light on their concerns regarding these assets, and many reported that they are willing to help maintain them. Before digging into the survey results, let’s define what a backcountry airstrip is and what it isn’t.

What is a backcountry airstrip?
Conventional public airports are typically developed with FAA funding, and operated either by the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities (DOT&PF), a municipal government or the military. Alaska also has quite a few airparks and private use airports, developed and owned privately.  However, there is another type of aviation infrastructure that is important to many Alaskans. These are often just a runway, with no other facilities, defined as backcountry airstrips or landing areas, rather than airports. These may or may not be charted, or listed in the Alaska Supplement, but they were developed for use by aircraft, and represent an important component of our aviation transportation system.

Tolovana Hot Springs: A landing strip that has been improved for aircraft operations, and would be considered a backcountry airstrip for purposes of this survey.

To go one step further, we need to distinguish between backcountry airstrips and off-field operations that use landing areas that are not recognized as airstrips. Beyond the established backcountry airstrips, people often land on gravel bars, ridge tops, tundra benches or other locations which are not otherwise improved or modified specifically for purposes of landing or take off.  This survey did not cover true off-field operations.

A spike camp on a gravel bar on the North Slope. This would be considered an off-field landing location and NOT a backcountry airstrip.

Backcountry airstrips may be the destination themselves, especially in cases where people have cabins or camps nearby. In other cases, the backcountry airstrip is the gateway to off-field operations, and serves as a staging area, or an emergency refuge when weather moves in.

Backcountry working group
In 2006, the Governor’s Aviation Advisory Board passed a resolution that called attention to the value of backcountry airstrips, and called for DOT&PF to take action to recognize and protect this component of our aviation infrastructure. Late in 2014, as part of the FAA-funded Alaska Aviation System Plan, the department established a working group to explore this subject. The group created a definition for backcountry airstrips and conducted this survey. Other planned activities include creating a partial inventory of backcountry airstrips, and identifying potential future strategies to preserve and maintain them. Look for more on these topics in the future, but for now, back to the survey.

Survey Results
A survey was conducted online and by hard-copy from early April to mid-May 2017, and was publicized by DOT&PF, AOPA, the Alaska Airmen’s Association, the Recreational Aviation Foundation (RAF), and Alaska Air Carriers Association. Here are some of the results:

  • Of the 245 pilots responding, 91 percent said they used backcountry airstrips in Alaska.
  • The frequency of use was very evenly distributed among those that used them just a few times per year, on a seasonal basis, or regularly year-round.
  • When asked about concerns regarding backcountry airstrips, the leading issue was loss or closure (42%), followed by physical condition, maintenance and safety issues (35%).

Just over half of the respondents said that the airstrips they generally visit are in need of repairs or maintenance. Some of the comments included “Growth of brush and trees that hinder approaches and ground taxi operations” and “Lack of maintenance. Overgrown approach and departure.”  I was most encouraged to see that almost 80% of these pilots said they would be willing to volunteer to help maintain these facilities. One respondent summarized this issue as follows, “Backcountry airstrips are some of our only access point[s] in a state that sports a vast amount of land with no roads.”

Recreation, emergency use, hunting and general access were the most frequently cited uses of backcountry airstrips in this survey.

Word of mouth from other pilots was the most frequent method of collecting information on backcountry airstrips.

Where do we go from here?
There is clearly more to do regarding identifying, preserving and maintaining backcountry airstrips.  On June 3rd, RAF Alaska State Liaison Al Clayton organized a work party at Jake’s Bar, in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.  Nine volunteers flew from Clayton’s airstrip near McCarthy to the 1,000 foot airstrip along the Chitina River and trimmed or removed trees along the airstrip. This work was coordinated with the National Park Service in advance–working with the land-owners on efforts like this is one of the ways we can continue to protect and maintain these valuable facilities. Kudos to the RAF for undertaking this effort. I invite you to check them out and see how you can become involved http://theraf.org/.

Stay tuned for more on this topic in the months and years ahead as we promote and support pilots’ access to backcountry Alaska.

Note: This article was originally published in the July-September Issue #105 of The Transponder, the Alaska Airmens Association’s newsletter.

Alaska Weather: not just on TV anymore

The half-hour TV show, Alaska Weather, has helped pilots understand, and visualize, statewide weather patterns for over forty years.  Produced jointly by Alaska Public Media and the Nation Weather Service-Alaska Region, it airs nightly on public television channels starting at 5:30 pm on some stations, and later on others. More on this later, but pilots should take note that Alaska Weather is available any time you want to view it after 6 pm, on YouTube.  Rather than timing your day around the broadcast schedule of a local station, as long as you have reasonable internet access the program is sitting there, ready to watch at your convenience.

Value added
When the program first started in September, 1976 it was called Aviation Weather, and focused specifically on the aviation community.  Over the years the value of providing a statewide summary of weather conditions became apparent, and the scope of the program was expanded to include general public and marine forecasts.

As pilots, we have access to some excellent online aviation weather resources today, including the Alaska Aviation Weather Unit’s website (note their new address: weather.gov/aawu) but I still find it helpful to listen to a meteorologist explain what is going on, and provide the “big picture” before I look at individual observations, forecasts and weather camera sites.  The National Weather Service has gone to significant efforts to utilize satellite imagery and animation loops to help viewers see the flows of air and moisture that influence the atmospheric conditions we can expect the following day.

A mixture of satellite images and graphics used by Meteorologist Dave Snider, help visualize weather patterns.

The program also features seasonal information, which currently includes warnings about areas of high wildfire danger. In the spring, reports of flooding and break-up on the rivers are included in the broadcast.  Last night’s episode included mention of a new weather camera just added by the FAA at Honolulu.  I admit that until seeing the map showing the camera site location between McKinley Park and Talkeetna, I was thinking that the camera station was in Hawaii…

Hangar Flying segments
From the beginning, there has been a short break in the middle of the half hour weather program (on commercial stations, this would have been filled with advertisements). Often a safety or short educational feature is included.  To help provide content for this 10 minute break between aviation and marine forecasts, the Alaskan Aviation Safety Foundation (AASF) stepped up to the plate, and created a short segment, Hangar Flying, which aired twice a week.  This feature was also as a joint effort with Alaska Public Media, who provided the studio and staff to produce the program.  These short segments, regularly hosted by AASF Board Chair Harry Kieling and Board Secretary Mary O’Connor, featured interviews with a wide range of pilots, mechanics, educators, government officials and other “persons of interest.”  Unfortunately changes at KAKM resulted in suspension of production of the program last April, but I hope to see it back in the future.

Where to find Alaska Weather on TV
Realizing that not everyone has internet access capable of streaming video, it is important also to know where and when to find the program on public television channels across the state.  The following link takes you to a page about the show: http://www.weather.gov/afc/tv. The table below provides the time and networks that carry the program.  In most cases the Alaska Weather is aired in the early evening, arming you with weather information for the following two days.  Unfortunately, Alaska Public Media stations in Southcentral, Southeast and Southwest Alaska don’t broadcast the show until 5 am the following morning.  If those stations are your only broadcast TV access, it is another good reason to consider firing up your computer and watching on YouTube.

Table shows the networks and timing of Alaska Weather broadcasts across the state.

However you access it, Alaska Weather continues to be a great way to load the big picture in your head, helping plan the following day.  Weather is one of our biggest challenges in aviation.  We know there is a shortage of reporting stations in Alaska that sometimes makes it difficult to figure out what to expect along a flight route.  Being armed with the synoptic view of weather patterns, even before you start a weather briefing, gives you a leg up on safety planning your next flight.  Thanks to the National Weather Service for providing this tool for our flight kit!

Upgraded weather web tools for Alaska pilots

Our ability to access weather data for pilots in Alaska continues to evolve.  Recently both the National Weather Service and the FAA have released new operational versions of their websites for Alaska weather.  They are both well worth a closer look.

Alaska Aviation Weather Unit’s New Look
For years the NWS Alaska Aviation Weather Unit (AAWU) has provided an excellent website with a combination of current and forecast weather products specifically for Alaska aviators.  It just got a new look, to increase security and migrate to a nationally supported server. While you will recognize most of the products, the home page has a different look, and increased functionality.

The main page on the new AAWU site has controls to toggle Airmets, TAFs and/or PIREPs.

The home page uses a new base map, and offers increased functionality without having to dig into the menu structure.  Not only is it a zoomable map base, but one can now toggle on (and off) Airmets, Terminal Area Forecasts and/or display PIREPs.  TAFs sites are color coded by weather category. You may also display and filter pilot reports, to look up to 24 hours into the past for trend information. New features to watch for include adding METARs to the user choices on the front page, and updated winds aloft graphics. Also explore the tiled quick links at the bottom of the homepage.

In this screen shot above, PIREPs for the past three hours are displayed. They also include a text list of the PIREPs for the selected time block at the bottom of the page, in case you want to browse them in that form.

The old site will continue to run in parallel with the new site until June 20, 2017, but start using the new site today at: weather.gov/aawu.  As with any site that is developing, you may need to let the National Weather Service know if you have problems, or questions.  Direct those to: [email protected].

New FAA Weather Camera site goes operational
By all accounts, the Aviation Weather Camera Program is the most popular thing the FAA has done in many years.  After months of development and testing, it too has a new look, web address and loads of new functionality.  Thanks to many of you who participated in the recent beta-testing activity, the FAA made significant upgrades and declared the new site operational as of May 1st.

More current and forecast weather information has been added to the site.

While the FAA will continue to operate the old site in parallel for a while, you should note the new address:  avcamsplus.faa.gov. The major changes have to do with the presentation of current and forecast weather in graphic form, on the map page.  If zoomed in far enough, airports that have reported weather and terminal area forecasts will give reveal conditions at a glance, before even selecting and reading the full text reports.

METARs, TAFs and PIREPs are visually presented, with an idea of the trend presented graphically.

Other new features include an increased selection of base maps to choose from, including Sectionals, IFR charts or a terrain enhanced display.  Note, however, that several the menu selection choices are not active. There is more development ahead, making it very important that you remember to take the Pilot Survey that is linked from the hope page. Also note that this version of the program is not optimized for tablets or smart phones. Those devices are to be incorporated in future releases.

Exercise them!
Both of the NWS and FAA tools are coming out just as the flying season ramps up. Please take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with them before taking off this summer. And keep your comments rolling in to drive improvements in the months ahead!

GPS Jamming in Alaska: Maybe not as bad as it looks

Along with the return of waterfowl to Alaska, there is another sign of spring: the start of the military training exercise season.  This year’s lead off exercise is Northern Edge, scheduled from May 1-12, including an extended plan for GPS jamming.  An overview of the jamming activities was presented in a briefing to the Alaska Civil Military Aviation Council (ACMAC) recently. These are becoming an increasingly important part of the exercise. Our military uses of GPS, as well as the development of jamming devices by foreign powers, make it an essential component of the “train like we fight” nature of these exercises.  Of course, at the same time civil aviation is becoming reliant on GPS for navigation, and as a key component of the ADS-B system, for surveillance by Air Traffic Control.

Civil Impacts of GPS Jamming
When the military is “testing” their jamming systems, what is the impact on civil aviation?  At the ACMAC meeting, we were informed that the equipment used during the Northern Edge exercise is ground based, operated at two location:  R-2205 east of Eielson Air Force Base, and at Chena Hot Springs.  The jamming will be highly directional in nature, focusing on targets to the north east of those locations.  But be prepared for a shock when you look at the NOTAMs issued regarding these activities.  Even though the plans for jamming are directional in nature, the FAA requires that the NOTAM cover the impact as if jamming was taking place in any direction. Consequently, we end up with projected impacts having a radius of several hundred miles at altitude.

Diagram of the predicted impact of jamming in all directions from the ground locations at R-2205 and Chena Hot Springs. Jamming is planned to take place only to the north east of those locations

Map of potential impacts from GPS testing from NOTAM JFAK 17-01. Please check current NOTAMs before you fly.

The NOTAM issued to warn civil aviation when these exercises are being conducted shows a huge “circle” of airspace that may be impacted, intended to represent an absolute worst case. The actual plans confine the highly directional jamming activities to the north east from the ground locations.  The figures above represents this omni-directional worst case.  At the briefing, FAA advised us that ATC plans to continue to use ADS-B, and to issue clearances for GPS routes and GPS approaches, after cautioning pilots about the activities scheduled during their flight.

Provisions to Cease Jamming
Since the jamming activities can interfere with aircraft navigation, provisions have been made to cease operations should an emergency arise.  ATC will have a direct line of communications to stop jamming and confirm the jammers are off within 60 seconds of receiving the request, in the event of a safety-of-flight issue.  Pilots finding themselves in trouble should contact ATC, in the event of an emergency.

In addition to JPARC airspaces, Northern Edge operations will take place in the Gulf of Alaska, using a corridor between FL220 and 260 to transition between areas

Northern Edge
This exercise is massive in scale.  Over 150 aircraft, launching from bases at Eielson, JBER and Anchorage International Airport are scheduled to participate.  The MOAs and Restricted Areas in the JPARC, along with an offshore airspace over the Gulf of Alaska will see action.  While the exercise runs Monday through Friday for the first two weeks of May, no flying is scheduled on the weekends.  There is a daily pattern to the exercises, with the most intensive flying activities taking place from 10 am to noon for the morning mission, with a second window from 5 to about 7:30 pm. Aircraft departing before and recovering after the mission will extend those times by up to an hour on either end of the day.  Please check NOTAMs carefully during these days, as plans sometimes change in response to weather and other factors.

Getting it right
This training is obviously important to maintain our military readiness. Yet it feels like we still need to find a better balance between communicating the potential impacts of the GPS jamming, without interfering with ongoing civil operations in the National Airspace System.  Please pay close attention during these exercises (there will be more to come later in the season) and tell ATC or Flight Service about any problems you encounter with GPS or ADS-B usage that might relate to this activity.  Please also drop AOPA a message at [email protected].

ADS-B Coverage in Alaska: Where you have it—and where you don’t!

Equipping our airplanes with ADS-B is on our “radar” these days.  What does this new technology do for us? Is it worth it to equip? The FAA just provided a tool to anticipate where ADS-B coverage is available, which could help you decide whether to equip your aircraft.

Background
Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) was born in Alaska, as a demonstration project in the Bethel area — part of a safety program to reduce aircraft accidents.  It succeeded by significantly reducing the accident rate in southwest Alaska, along with the addition of more weather stations, instrument approaches, and other improvements.   This and follow-on projects contributed to the national system (NextGen) we are transitioning to today.  By 2020, pilots wishing to fly in certain classes of airspace will be required to have ADS-B Out, the component of the system that broadcasts your position once a second to other airplanes that are equipped to receive it.  And ADS-B Out also broadcasts to stations on the ground, which relay your position to Air Traffic Control facilities who may track you inflight, something that in the past only radar could do.  Of course, ADS-B also has an IN side. With additional additional equipment added to your airplane, you receive not only the location of OUT equipped aircraft, but weather information, pilot reports, NOTAMs and more.  However, to get the full benefits of the system, you need to be within the coverage footprint of a ground station to receive that data.  And that’s the rub. The network of ground stations in Alaska is pretty sparse.  The good news is that this month the FAA added Alaska coverage to the Google-Earth tool to see where you can expect to receive ADS-B coverage at different altitudes.  Below is an example.

The figure above shows that the ADS-B coverage at 3,000 feet above ground level is selected. Other choices in the file allow you to select altitudes from 500 feet to 10,000 feet agl. The file also contains ATC radar coverage which may be toggled on and off as well. Two routes between Anchorage and Fairbanks are displayed.

The screen shot above shows what ADS-B coverage at 3,000 agl looks like. Also displayed are two flight routes—a direct flight for those clear days when you can climb to altitude, and the more indirect route past Palmer, through Tahneta Pass, across the Copper River Valley to Isabel Pass, and then on to Fairbanks.  The more indirect route illustrates that there is no coverage in the Copper River area, until you make it through the pass, and are in the Tanana Valley.  With Google Earth, you may define any route you like, and get an idea of where you will or won’t receive the full benefits of the ADS-B system.

RADAR Coverage Included
Another information source is included in this package.  For each of the altitude categories in the KML file, you may also display ATC radar coverage.  This can be helpful if you are trying to determine where, and at what altitudes you might be able to get VFR Flight Following from ATC, which is another handy feature.

Alaska ADS-B Coverage Lacking
There are many benefits of the ADS-B system, but to receive the full value of the system, the airspace you fly in needs to be in coverage.  Zooming out and looking at coverage statewide, it becomes apparent that large portions of the state have no coverage.  AOPA, the Alaska Airmens Association and other organizations have and will continue to advocate to increase coverage across the state. While no ground-based system will ever cover the entire state, we estimate that another 12-14 stations would be required to provide an adequate minimum operational network of coverage.  We continue to work with the FAA to push for more stations, however the cost benefit calculation is in part determined by how many aircraft are equipped to utilize the system.

Benefits Still Exist
While we continue to advocate for improved coverage, there are many safety benefits regardless of coverage.  For example, two aircraft flying opposite directions on a drizzly day under a low cloud layer following the Yukon River half-way between Fort Yukon and Eagle will be able to “see” each other, without the benefits of any ground station, if both are equipped with ADS-B.  This benefit, along with the ability to receive weather information, current pilot reports and NOTAMs from a remote area or while enroute are features that can help improve pilots’ situational awareness and should be considered when deciding if, and how to equip your aircraft. You can use the FAA’s ADS-B coverage map to asses the availability and value for the flying that you do.

Statewide coverage of ADS-B for 3,000 ft agl shows huge holes in coverage across mainland Alaska. AOPA is pushing for additional coverage for the state.

Getting the Tool
To obtain this KML file, go to the FAA’s Equip ADS-B page  https://www.faa.gov/nextgen/equipadsb/airspace/ and select the link to download the Google Earth map.  If you don’t already have Google Earth on your computer, you will need to separately download and install that free program.  The KML file from the FAA encompasses the entire country, and at first may appear overwhelming, as it contains airports and airspace in addition to the ADS-B and radar coverage folders.  After opening the file in Google Earth on your own computer, you may turn off those other features. The FAA includes the Alaska ADS-B and radar coverage in a separate folder, which you may save independently, if you like. Scroll down the list of folders to find the Alaska section.

With this tool, it is easy to look at the places you fly, and see what kind of ADS-B coverage to expect along the routes most important to you. It may help you make an investment decision!

 

Other ADS-B References that might be helpful:

Online course on ADS-B Basics:  Link directly to an AOPA Air Safety Institute interactive course that provides the basics on what ADS-B is and how it works.  https://flash.aopa.org/asf/ads-b/

AOPA’s ADS-B OUT selector:  A flow sheet to help figure out what equipment might be most appropriate for your flying.  https://www.aopa.org/go-fly/aircraft-and-ownership/ads-b/ads-b-selector

Updated information on the FAA ADS-B Rebate Program: https://www.faa.gov/nextgen/equipadsb/rebate/

https://www.aopa.org/news-and-media/all-news/2016/october/05/pilots-seeking-ads-b-rebates-some-steps-clarified

https://www.aopa.org/news-and-media/all-news/2017/january/pilot/ads-b-early-adopters

https://www.aopa.org/news-and-media/all-news/2017/february/pilot/adsb-passing-the-test 

https://www.aopa.org/news-and-media/all-news/2017/march/pilot/adsb-npe

Exemption for aircraft without electrical system:

https://www.aopa.org/news-and-media/all-news/2017/april/pilot/adsb-broadcast-clarity

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