The Surveillance and Broadcast Services’ Central Service Area office (SBS CSA) provides oversight and management of all activities to bring ADS-B services to the Central Service area including the Gulf of Mexico. A key site for ADS-B implementation is the Gulf of Mexico. The map illustrates which states are within FAA's Surveillance and Broadcast Services’ Central Service Area.
Gulf of Mexico
Radar coverage has never extended over the Gulf of Mexico or other large water body's since there is no physical location to install the very large radar structures. Yet, air traffic in the Gulf is nearly as busy as the heavily traveled East Coast corridor, with some 5,000 to 9,000 helicopter offshore platform operations every day, plus commercial flights between the United States, Mexico and South America.
Low-altitude aircraft are isolated without radar surveillance. Instead to keep aircraft safely separated, a 20-mile by 20-mile grid across the operating area is imposed for which limited numbers of helicopters are allowed within. Helicopters once operated in challenging weather conditions on the oil platforms and between, throughout the Gulf without FAA-provided weather or communications. High altitude commercial air traffic separated by 100 miles to compensate for the lack of FAA provided weather and communications. These resulted in severely restricted capacity and efficiency.
In a joint agreement, between the FAA, Helicopter Association International, operators, and oil platform companies, the FAA agreed to deploy ADS-B surveillance, Weather Systems, and air-to-ground communications equipment on offshore oil rigs. The industry has committed to use valuable platform area and infrastructure, and provide helicopter transportation in order to install and maintain FAA components. Helicopter operators are committed to installing ADS-B avionics prior to the proposed avionics mandate.
The surveillance and air-to-ground communications in the Gulf allowed helicopter operators and air transport aircraft to receive domestic-like FAA air traffic services for the first time. Initial operational capability for air-to-ground communications was achieved in September 2009. The weather observation equipment now benefits helicopters and commercial air traffic control with greatly needed information about offshore flight conditions. The FAA and its service provider ITT installed 35 Automated Weather Observing Stations (AWOS) to benefit the helicopter operations.
Initial operational capability for ADS-B surveillance services in the Gulf also began on December 2009. Controllers are now able to use ADS-B to separate high-altitude ADS-B-equipped aircraft over the Gulf, shrinking the 100-mile requirement to as little as 5 nautical miles in-trail. This also allows the air traffic to utilize more efficient routes and airspace, improving efficiency and reducing delays.
Low-altitude helicopters have the ability to receive air traffic services direct to their destinations with the aid of surveillance and weather which improves safety as well as efficiency. The benefits for equipped helicopters includes increased capacity, reduced delays, fuel savings, search and rescue operations improvements, and added safety provided by air traffic control monitoring of flight. Additionally, helicopters choosing to equip with ADS-B IN cockpit displays enables the pilots to see and avoid surrounding air traffic and weather and receive free weather and flight information services that are currently available through lease services. All of this significantly improves the efficiency and safety of offshore operations.
Current CSA ADS-B deployment
Contacting the SBS Central Service Area
Federal Aviation Administration – SBS CSA
2601 Meacham Blvd.
Fort Worth, TX 76137
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