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Soon-to-be mandatory system could help prevent mid-air plane collisions in remote areas

Last Updated May 15, 2019 at 8:30 am PDT

A float plane which crashed in the Northwest Territories is shown in a Transportation Safety Board handout photo. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Transportation Safety Board MANDATORY CREDIT)

BELLINGHAM (NEWS 1130) – A new soon-to-be mandatory system on all American planes should help increase communication in remote areas and places with no radar.

This comes after a mid-air collision involving two float planes in Alaska Monday afternoon.

The system should also help reduce mid-air collisions, but won’t be in place until next year.

“According to an FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) rule, all American aircraft have to be equipped with new tracking gear called ADS-B,” says Jeffrey Lustick, a Bellingham based aviation lawyer.

RELATED: Canadian citizen among those killed in float plane crash in Alaska

“It’s a signal-sending and receiving unit that attaches to the transponder of the aircraft. And it sends out a signal that contains the aircraft’s altitude and its heading,” he adds. “It also contains information about the operator of the aircraft and the registration and that type of thing. There’s an add-on system that you can get in the cockpit that allows you to see where other air traffic is relative to you and it actually sends out alerts.”

But it isn’t mandatory yet says Lustick, who is also a pilot himself and former lawyer in the U.S. Air Force.

“This system (ADS-B) is not required until January 1st of 2020. A lot of aircraft that are flying in domestic airspace in the United States have already been equipped with this. The government is paying a rebate if you get your systems equipped with this but hasn’t happened force-wide yet so there are a lot of aircraft flying around that do not have that.”

RELATED: 10 hospitalized in floatplanes mishap in Alaska

All planes with electrical systems, no matter what the size, will be required to make the switch.

“And this is somewhat controversial because even general aviation, private operators need to get this system and the prices range anywhere from two-thousand to nine-thousand dollars per aircraft. So if you’re a private operator, this can be quite an expenditure,” says Lustick.

But it’s the way of the future.

“It’s designed to eventually replace radar and it’s designed to get in places where radar isn’t practical, where radar might not be able to penetrate mountains and get into canyons and valleys, but ADS-B would with the placement of ground stations and boosters along the way.”