Everyone who operates responsibly in the New Zealand aviation system knows that ADS-B surveillance could be a priceless enhancement to flight safety. This extends beyond the observation of aircraft within controlled airspace.
The scope and potential of ADS-B reaches further into the realm of safety in uncontrolled airspace and, in particular, in the event of an accident.
A few days ago, an RV12 microlight crashed in the Coromandel, killing its pilot.
When the aircraft came down, its ELT failed to activate. Destruction of ELTs is common in light aircraft crashes. We know that the CAA is adamant that ADS-B cannot replace the ELT facility, but we also know that any aircraft equipped with ADS-B can have its last recorded position easily identified.
What makes this tragedy more poignant and significant is that the pilot had installed ADS-B in ZK LSV shortly before the accident and it was operating throughout the flight.
Private individuals used Flightradar 24 and RCC accessed Airways ADS data to very rapidly locate him and his aircraft. Without this information, a LandSAR mission could have taken much longer – with public expense implications to match.
Imagine another scenario, where the occupants of a crashed aircraft in a remote area have survived. ADS-B could speed the rescuers and help to save lives.
We believe this is yet another reason why the high cost of ADS-B installations in general aviation aircraft must be financially assisted by Airways, with the backing of the CAA, the MoT and the government. Cost is the major determining factor in achieving widespread (and hopefully, universal) adoption of ADS-B in the New Zealand GA fleet.
The GAA has made its view clear to CAA Director Graeme Harris and Minister of Transport Phil Twyford.
ELT transmitters have a history of failure in accidents, are too expensive to maintain and contain lithium-ion batteries which are known to be hazardous. They do not monitor aircraft positions and – if activated at all – are often turned on in the final stage of an emergency by aircrew with too much else on their mind.
This is a crude, unreliable and technologically outdated resource for aviators in dire need of help. Its use is limited – and once ADS-B is universally adopted, carrying an ELT should be optional.
Footnote: On 18 June, the FAA issued a Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin for ACR (Artex) ELTs, admitting G Switch reliability issues, specifically the ELT not transmitting alert and location signals in case of an accident due to an inoperative or a deteriorated G-switch.