Tuesday, February 03, 2009

It’s Always Something



The folks at Quiet Rockland sent me a link to an FAA “interview” with Hank Krakowski, the FAA’s current Chief Operating Officer (COO) for the Air Traffic Organization (ATO). The FAA and their acronyms. And their PR stunts. (sigh) I guess that means Mr. Krakowski is a FAACOOATO -- some sort of bird you find only in Washington.

Yes, that was childish. Nor more so than this “interview” where a the FAA spends who-knows-how-much taxpayer money to create expensive, yet, incredibly ineffective propaganda. No one believes a word that is said.

You can waste your time watching the video if you like (I wouldn’t recommend it) but I, of course, already did. In the middle of it, Mr. Krakowski blithely states that “radar is going away”. Or something very close to that. I’m not watching the video again to make sure I got the quote exactly right. There are limits. (By the way, he said the VORs and the ILSs are going away too.)

Now, with all due respect to Mr. Krakowski’s flying and COOing ability, that statement makes me wonder if he knows what air traffic controllers do. Much less how they do it. I don’t know if he has been listening to Mr. Poole or if Mr. Poole has been listening to Mr. Krakowski or if this is just a monumental example of the hazards of group think.

Okay. Before I hit you with the facts, I need for you to get your mind right. Clear your head and answer these questions calmly, clearly and simply. They aren’t trick questions. You know the answers answer. The obvious answer is the correct answer.

What government entity first funded and fielded radar ? The military.
What government entity first launched a satellite ? The military.
What government entity fielded GPS ? The military.

Are you getting the Flick yet ? The military is a major player in virtually everything. Certainly air traffic control and aviation. Let’s see what the military has to say about radar “going away”.

(You can read this document as .html or download the .pdf file.)

FAA’s “Surveillance/Positioning Backup Strategy Alternatives Analysis”

”Paper No.: 08-003 July 15, 2008“

”Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) will be the means of cooperative surveillance in the future, “

The key phrase here is “cooperative surveillance”. The hijackers on 9/11 were “uncooperative”. So are drug smugglers, other crooks and invaders. Radar detects objects -- cooperative or not. ADS-B only detects ADS-B equipped vehicles with a functioning electrical system.

”The “Surveillance/Positioning Backup Strategy Alternatives Analysis” Report (referred to herein as the Report) was developed assuming a fully functioning ADS-B capability as described in “Final Program Requirements for Surveillance and Broadcast Services.”1 Several key assumptions were made to determine a mitigation strategy:

d. “Primary radar” will be used “to mitigate single-aircraft avionics failures” in most terminal airspace. “


Mr. Krakowski’s claim that radar will “go away” is shot down within the first few paragraphs. This section also points to the Achilles heel of ADS-B. If a single airplane has an equipment failure -- if the equipment that sends a signal to air traffic control fails -- the aircraft disappears from the ADS-B system. It just drops off the controller’s scope. The aircraft becomes the proverbial “loose cannon”, invisibly careening through the National Airspace System at 500 mph.

”The Report recommended that the FAA retain approximately one-half of the Secondary Radar network as the backup strategy for ADS-B. “

Notice the difference: “Primary radar” and “Secondary Radar”. Not only will primary radar (the raw electronic signal that bounces off of an airplane and back to the radar dish) be required as a backup, but so will secondary radar. That is the part of the radar system that sends an interrogation signal to an aircraft and the transponder on the aircraft replies with the aircraft’s identification and altitude.

”The JPDO-sponsored NGATS Institute SatNav Backup Study and JPDO involvement in the National Position, Navigation and Timing (PNT) Architecture both indicate that positioning/navigation accuracy and robustness requirements will require a “complementary” PNT system (or systems) based on phenomenology that is dissimilar to Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) – candidates include eLORAN and advanced Inertial Reference Units. “

Don’t you love governmentese ? Put simply, with ADS-B, the FAA plans to run aircraft so close to each other that they will need a system to backup the primary GPS navigation system. Any disaster that takes out the GPS system will likely take out any other GNSS system (the Russian’s GPS system and/or Galileo, the European Union’s proposed GPS system.) Believe it or not, all that “phenomenology” boils down to sunspots. The GPS signal is a weak signal that is susceptible to sunspots (not to mention intentional jamming.) We need a backup that uses a different technology -- eLORAN.

Something else that most people don’t think about. That would be a radar navigation system. We tend to think of radar as a tool air traffic controllers use to keep airplanes separated. But in fact, we use it as a navigation system constantly.

“Fly heading three three zero radar vectors ILS runway two four.”
“Turn left, heading two seven zero, radar vector to the Asheville airport.”

Anybody remember GCAs ? Radar navigation.

Let me quote one more part of this report and I’ll let you go.

”a. FAA could use DoD/DHS non-cooperative air domain surveillance information as a backup strategy for a variety of ADS-B outages.

b. DoD/DHS may not be interested in continuing to use/fund FAA-operated primary long- range (en route) radars.

c. Alternative means of detection emerge. For example, electromagnetic sensors used by DOC/NOAA to detect weather phenomena might be leveraged to detect objects flying in U.S. airspace. “


I’m telling you, this all would be funny if it wasn’t so expensively sad. I wonder if the FAA guys know that NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which includes the National Weather Service) is using FAA radar to get weather information ?

Let me sum it all up for those that are lost. The FAA wants to use ADS-B as part of NextGen. In order to do that, they need a backup for air traffic control surveillance and a back up for the primary navigation system. The FAA says radar will “go away”, knowing full well that somebody in the Federal government will have to have a radar system to serve as a backup to ADS-B and for national defense. The FAA, the DOD, Homeland Security and lo -- even the National Weather Service -- are supposed to flight amongst themselves to see who will pay for the radar. Think of the stupidity in all this. It isn’t even their money. It’s all the taxpayer’s money.

Keep in mind that all this fuss is to test an unproven theory that says if we run aircraft closer together we can handle more airplanes in the National Airspace System. Unfortunately that does nothing for runway capacity. We’ll have a really expensive system that can deliver 100 airplanes an hour to a runway that can only handle 60 airplanes an hour, even under the best of conditions. You realize we’ve already got one of those, right, Hank ?

And while I’ve got your attention...any truth to the rumor that you’ll be the next FAA Administrator ?

Don Brown
February 3, 2009

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