February 2013

Experimenter is a magazine created by EAA for people who build airplanes. We will report on amateur-built aircraft as well as ultralights and other light aircraft.

Issue link: http://experimenter.epubxp.com/i/108002

Contents of this Issue


Page 43 of 44

Hangar Debrief the WSR-57 (Weather Surveillance Radar-1957) weather data, digitized it, and delivered the data to the VOR. The data was then transmitted as "background noise" on the VOR voice channel. (Back then almost everyone had a VOR receiver.) The information was received via a "black box" under the pilot's seat, decoded, and sent to a small dot matrix printer (small digital displays hadn't been invented yet and PCs were just born) where a printout of the weather was available to the pilot. Just reach down and tear off the printout, orient it to your direction of flight, and presto, situational awareness of the weather and your aircraft. We took this invention to Ohio University (OU) for flight testing by Dr. Richard McFarland's flight department. Doc was one of the most brilliant scientists in the aviation world and a big proponent of general aviation. The device was installed in an OU Bonanza and DC-3. Then Administrator J. Lynn Helms came to OU, flew the system, declared it worked, and then soon left the FAA. We tried to get this invention to the attention of senior FAA management heads, but they weren't interested in reprogramming money for GA. They said if pilots had this information, they would just get themselves in trouble. We were incensed and became committed to changing this absurd attitude. Fast-forward to the 1990s. NASA (Dr. Bruce Holmes) and now the FAA (myself with Administrator Joe Del Balzo's full support) joined forces to reinvent GA. AGATE, the Advanced GA Transport Experiments program, was created jointly with industry as a full partner. One of the goals was to fast-track technology into GA aircraft. Of interest, of course, was getting weather and other vital information to the in-flight pilot. We decided to bring AGATE to the attention of the GA community by going to EAA Oshkosh and telling our story. We did this during the early 1990s. One of our partners was ARNAV, an avionics manufacturer owned by Frank Williams, a great person, brilliant engineer, and someone who was not just involved in GA but committed to making it better and safer. Frank had developed a system that could track a vehicle and have two-way communications with it. Some of you old-timers may remember a brightly painted ARNAV VW Beetle equipped with all sorts of electronics and antennae, driving around the convention grounds back then. This vehicle was equipped with a GPS and data link that transmitted position, speed, and more to a ground station in one of the convention buildings at the ARNAV booth where received messages were displayed and sent to the Beetle. 44 Vol.2 No.2 / February 2 013 The technology went from Beetle to aircraft in less than two years. The development path included installation in emergency medical service helicopters for use in GPS approaches to hospital heliports and for ATC to track helicopter operations to oil platforms in the Gulf. In 1996 we took this technology, enhanced it to the greatest extent possible, and installed it on the 100 aircraft that were permitted to fly over the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. Here's an interesting side note: For security purposes this data link equipment was required for any and all vehicles flying at low altitude over Atlanta during the games. The project focused primarily on helicopters and photoships and included GA aircraft as well as the Goodyear and Bud One blimps. During Oshkosh 1996, we had the Olympic airspace system on display in the FAA building. This effort was the first real test of a GA data link and the birth of what is now automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B). Te technology went from Beetle to aircraf in less than two years. Te development path included installation in emergency medical service helicopters for use in GPS approaches to hospital heliports and for ATC to track helicopter operations to oil platforms in the Gulf. The FAA has progressed, and thanks to Dr. George Donohue, then associate administrator of engineering, and David Hinson, the FAA administrator during this period, this GA project was fully funded and became mainstream within the FAA. From Oshkosh to Atlanta to Alaska (Capstone project) and now almost nationwide, ADS-B is providing vital flight information to the GA community. While ADS-B brings great information to the aircraft, the XM system brings other features that the government system doesn't. Which brings me back to where I am now, trying to figure out the placement of all these marvelous inventions in my RV-7. The journey that is the building process is awesome. I wonder what great new product will be introduced at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh this year, and where will it fit in my airplane?

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