UPS plans ADS-B approval for 727 fleet by 16 September

Bethel, Alaska
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United Parcel Service (UPS) is aiming to achieve unrestricted certification of automatic dependent surveillance broadcast (ADS-B) with Mode S data transmission for its Boeing 727-100 fleet on 15-16 September.

Taking part in the Federal Aviation Administration's Capstone navigation and flight information services demonstration in Bethel, Alaska, UPS Aviation Technologies (UPS AT) spokesman Ken Shapero tells ATI that the cargo giant wants to certificate ADS-B for fleet-wide use at the very earliest opportunity so its pilots can start using the technology.

Although UPS certificated 12 aircraft in 1999 for ADS-B use, it had to carry out 12 separate approvals. Each approval was specific to an individual aircraft tail-number.

Now the company wants to obtain a fleet-wide certification of ADS-B for all its 727 freighters. Approvals of ADS-B for its other jet freighter types (Boeing 747s, 757s and 767s, McDonnell Douglas DC-8s and - soon - Airbus A300-600Fs) will require additional supplemental type certificates (STCs), but with the 727 STC in its pocket these should not take UPS long.

Shapero says that UPS wants each of its 727s to be able to use ADS-B because the company realises it will only start learning where the new technology will be of most operational use to it when its pilots obtain day-to-day operational experience with ADS-B.

Freely admitting that UPS does not know yet how it will find ADS-B most useful, Shapero adds: "One thing we do know is that in order to do anything we need pilot experience. We will learn from our pilots as they find their stride with it."

For this reason, UPS has decided to plough ahead and certificate ADS-B with Mode S datalinking, even though the company's own universal access transceiver (UAT) technology is a rival.

The UPS AT-designed link and display processing unit (LDPU) that lies at the heart of the company's on-board ADS-B system incorporates both a UAT transceiver and a Mode S receiver.

However, air-to-ground Mode S transmission is handled by a specially designed Mode S transponder. Although UPS AT has designed its own Mode S transponder, the company does not expect to certificate the box until 2001. As a result it will use Honeywell's already-certificated unit for its unrestricted 727 fleet certification of ADS-B.

Shapero says UPS' desire for quick unrestricted certification for the 727 fleet is also the reason the company is not using the European VDL-4 data transmission technology in its ADS-B certification effort and the subsequent set of ADS-B trials that three US Cargo Airline Association (CAA) carriers and others are performing in October.

Unlike UAT and Mode S, VDL-4 capability is not built into the company's LDPU equipment: Shapero says VDL-4 is designed as an external module. However, he notes that the UPS AT link and display processing unit does feature a VDL-4 input socket, so in future the LDPU will be able to handle VDL-4 datalinking.

This is the second year running in which the CAA airlines are performing an operational evaluation of ADS-B in the Ohio River Valley area, so they have named the 2000 effort "OpEval II".

Shapero reveals that UPS AT's LDPU design for this year features a new "conflict situational alerting algorithm", roughly equivalent to the traffic alert function in TCAS.

The new algorithm will provide audible and visual alerts of potential traffic conflicts.