The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) is giving low-cost carrier JetBlue Airways US$4.2 million towards equipping up to 35 of its Airbus A320s with automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) avionics in exchange for data on these flights on the East Coast and to the Caribbean.
The FAA said the deal will also permit JetBlue to fly a new route to the Caribbean, and could lead to the development of two new, shorter routes to the Caribbean from Boston, New York and Washington. About 25 percent of JebBlue’s flights currently serve the region.
Because of this partnership, and the data it assumes will show the economic benefits of the satellite-based NextGen air traffic management program, the FAA hopes other airlines will step forward and equip their own aircraft. NextGen is a multi-billion dollar effort to modernize US air traffic flows.
The agency said it even has more money available for equipage in an account set up to further NextGen.
“Best-equipped will be best-served,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt.
US Transportation Department Secretary Ray LaHood, JetBlue CEO Dave Barger and Babbitt made the announcement at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.
The airline said it will be installing ADS-B on its A320s in the next two years. It also said it will pay for the cost of downtime while its young fleet is being fitted with the system.
In addition, JetBlue said it also will pay for any training needed for flight crews and dispatchers.
LaHood, calling Barger an “innovator,” said he stepped up to the plate to work with the FAA on this partnership.
Babbitt said these data will give other airlines a glimpse of future benefits to equipping their aircraft for more NextGen advancements.
Babbitt noted that this is not the first partnership FAA has had, pointing to other airlines that already have GPS and are installing ADS-B.
“We want our partners to know it is better to come on board sooner,” he said.
The FAA said the goal of the test is to track the 35 Airbus jets more precisely with satellite than current radar systems allow.
That will let JetBlue fly a new route, farther east, along the coast, as well as to use two areas over the ocean where radar coverage isn’t available, the FAA said.