United Airlines signed an agreement with the US FAA on 13 April that will see the carrier installing automatic dependent surveillance - broadcast (ADS-B) equipment on 12 of its Boeing 747s for use in passenger flights over the Pacific Ocean, initially on the San Francisco-Australia route.
By transmitting the highly accurate ADS-B position data over satellite links, the FAA says the airline will be able to benefit from decreased in-trail spacing as well as and time-saving altitude and route optimisations.
The agreement is one in a growing number of incentive programs designed to help airlines see the financial benefits of installing the next-generation GPS-based surveillance technology, says the FAA.
Most recently the agency funded US Airways to equip its new A330s with ADS-B software that will aid in the airport environment as well on transatlantic flights. Without ADS-B, carriers seeking better fuel economy by switching altitudes are required to gain multiple approvals from air traffic control.
Similar to US Airways, the FAA will pay for United's ADS-B equipment and its installation while United will cover the pilot training.
No timeline has yet been worked out for the installation and initial operations of the equipment, says the FAA.