"ADS-B is the Answer"
Robert A. Sturgell, Houston, TX
February 25, 2008

Helicopter Association International


Matt Zuccaro, thanks so much. I really appreciate that. It's great to be here this afternoon in Houston, to see the names and faces behind one of aviation's most exciting industries.

I've been to my fair share of fly-ins. I've sat in enough cockpits and seen enough "next big things" to last a lifetime. But I couldn't wait to come to the Heli-Expo to see what the buzz is all about. Did I say buzz? Maybe whir is more like it. Anyway, I took a quick stroll through the exhibition hall a minute ago, and I have to admit — it's enough to make a fighter pilot envious.

This afternoon, our focus is on ADS-B. It's a transformational technology that'll create a brand new NAS. It'll be the go-to system for anyone and everyone who operates in remote areas at low levels.

And, I want to say right off the bat, that the FAA is fully committed to this program.

Yours is an industry on the go. You don't have time to wait. Some of you have gone ahead and made your own investments for a range of services. These include communications, weather and satellite-based surveillance.

I'm proud of the fact that the FAA will now be able to provide these services that many of you have been paying for—services that are available to the rest of the NAS. And I have to say, we're charging ahead on a number of fronts to make it all a reality. The key to making it all come together, of course, has been industry partnerships.

The first wave of the ADS-B rollout, VHF air-to-ground communications, is already under way. My FAA colleagues up here will elaborate a little more on that in just a bit.

But I just want to point out a major milestone we're hitting this week. The FAA is conducting a design review of ITT's ADS-B system. Once that's done, it'll clear the way for the company to begin sending equipment out to the platforms. This is the equipment that'll be used for air traffic separation services.

What this all means is that by December of '09, the FAA will, for the first time, be providing communications, weather and surveillance to helicopter operators in the Gulf.

Picture that. Houston center will now have the ability to separate ADS-B surveilled targets by next year.

Let me take a moment here to personally thank a few of the operators for their valuable assistance. ERA Helicopters, Petroleum Helicopters, Air Logistics, and Chevron. You flew our teams out to the platforms for free. In addition, British Petroleum and Chevron, among others, gave us valuable space for the equipment and power to support our systems.

This is the kind of productive partnership we envisioned when we signed the joint agreement back in '06. That was key. Quite frankly, what it's going to accomplish is extraordinary.

We're essentially improving procedural NAS and creating something extremely beneficial out of it. We're stretching the airspace—extending it to the altitudes and the areas that you operate in.

Others may be able to benefit from what we're doing too, like EMS, or the air tour industry. With ADS-B, the possibilities are all there.

At the top of that list, of course, is safety.

There's been a steady improvement in the overall accident rate and fatal accident rate in the past few years. In '06, helicopters flew over one million hours in the Gulf. And in that time, the rate was 1.48 accidents for every 100,000 hours flown. Of the 1.48 accidents, 0.25 were fatal.

While this isn't on par with the commercial safety record, it's important to keep in mind the kinds of operations in the Gulf—brief trips from one elevated helipad to another, that take place all day long.

With that kind of work, the margin for error is small because of the operational hazards. But ADS-B can not only stretch the boundaries of the NAS. It can stretch the net of safety too.

All in all, we're making great strides. And I think much of the credit goes to the International Helicopter Safety Team. Their goal is to reduce the worldwide military and civil helicopter accident rate by 80 percent by 2016.

With members like HAI, FAA, Transport Canada, and ICAO, I don't see how the IHST can't hit that goal.

Now, since safety is the language that transcends all borders, I have an announcement to make.
Last Thursday, I signed out a final rule for rotorcraft performance and handling. It'll raise the safety bar another notch higher. And more importantly, it reflects the evolution of rotorcraft capabilities.

The rule harmonizes U.S. and European airworthiness standards for rotorcraft. And, it represents the first changes to performance and handling regulations in almost two decades. Many of you here today provided technical expertise to the FAA, and I want to thank you for your contributions.

Let me bring this to a close by stating what we all know. That this is an exciting time in the rotor industry. And I'm proud of the work that the FAA is doing to hit our ADS-B milestones. Like I said a minute ago, we are committed to this program.

All of us up here from the FAA, we're looking forward to working with Matt and Patrick Corr and the rest of the HAI team to see it all the way through to completion.

Thanks very much for having me, and thanks for writing the next chapter in rotorcraft history.

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