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Begich to FAA: Speed Up Deployment of Life-Saving Technology

Highlights Need in Arctic, Prince William Sound

The federal government must speed up deployment of technology to make flying in Alaska safer for small aircraft, U.S. Senator Mark Begich insisted during a hearing Wednesday of the Senate Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety and Security.

Watch the hearing here (Begich testimony at 1:03)

Begich, founder and co-chair of the Senate General Aviation Caucus, pressed Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Deputy Administrator Michael Whitaker for the changes as the panel discussed action needed to implement the Next Generation Air Traffic System (NextGen.)  One of the main components of NextGen is Automatic Dependent Surveillance—Broadcast (ADS-B), a satellite-based surveillance technology that is more precise than the current radar-based Air Traffic Control (ATC) system. The ADS-B program, formerly known as Captsone, was researched, developed and tested in Alaska. 

“Alaska has more pilots and small aircraft per capita than anywhere else in the nation.  We also have the most airspace.  This makes for an unparalleled experience for recreational pilots but also brings additional challenges for Alaskans in remote areas who rely on small aircraft as a major means of transportation,” said Begich. “In both cases, we must do all we can to ensure that safety is a priority.  If technology is available and effective, we must deploy it as soon as possible so that pilots can use these innovative tools like NextGen.”

During the hearing, Begich urged the FAA to build out the remaining ground stations in Alaska as soon as possible.  Begich noted that despite the 33 existing sites, there are still gaps in the Arctic region as well as Prince William Sound.  

Begich also highlighted the need for weather sensors for rural airports, noting a particular need for additional wind sensing equipment after his recent trip to Unalaska. Members of the Alaska Air Carriers Association (AACA) identified this as a priority issue during meetings with FAA Administrator Huerta when Huerta visited Alaska in May at Begich’s request.  During those meetings the AACA also requested improvements to the Automated Surface Observing Systems (ASOS) and better placement of wind speed recording technology.

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