JetBlue Airways is considering private funding for the installation of three automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) ground systems in the Caribbean to provide radar-like coverage for flights to and from Puerto Rico.
Joe Bertapelle, director of strategic airspace programs for JetBlue, says the carrier is in discussions with other U.S. carriers about co-funding the project, which would cost about $1 million per ground station. Bertapelle, speaking to Aviation Week at the Air Traffic Control Association Conference in Washington, says 30% of JetBlue’s unit revenue is derived from flights to and from Puerto Rico, where the airline operates a hub at San Juan’s Luis Munoz Marin International Airport. Without radar coverage, JetBlue and other domestic and international carriers must maintain an in-trail separation of 50 nm., compared to 15 nm. with ADS-B surveillance.
JetBlue has installed ACSS ADS-B “out” receivers on 35 aircraft using a $4.2 million grant from the FAA. The airline already is benefiting from reduced separation with ADS-B over the Gulf of Mexico on its four daily services between Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport in Florida and San Francisco International Airport, cutting 100-150 track mi. each way on the route, resulting in an expected $150,000 in fuel savings per year.
The FAA installed those stations on oil rigs in the Gulf as part of its nationwide rollout of ADS-B by prime contractor ITT Exelis. Bertapelle says the FAA initially intended to include ground stations in the Caribbean as far as Aruba, but eliminated the infrastructure due to cost constraints.
Along with ground stations, JetBlue also is investigating satellite-based ADS-B, which the FAA is considering as a potential complement to the ground infrastructure. “We’re doing the analysis of ground-based systems as we don’t know which way the decision will go,” says Bertapelle.