UAA aviation development featured on “NewsHour with Jim Lehrer”

December 14, 2007

Those who tuned into PBS’s “The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer” on Wednesday evening saw a segment on new aviation technology that spotlighted Alaska’s role in developing and testing the new equipment.

Leonard F. Kirk, assistant director of UAA’s Aviation Technology Division, was one of several aviation experts interviewed on-camera for the segment, reported by Tom Bearden and titled “FAA Tests GPS-based Air Traffic Control.”

Kirk, who coordinates UAA’s portion of the safety-improvement program known as Captsone, “played a key role” in developing the new GPS-based system, according to Bearden.

The versatile system provides navigation aids, weather data, surveillance, communications and flight information services.

Word about the new safety gear, which is more accurate than radar, and UAA’s role in its development has spread far. Late Thursday morning, Kirk also was interviewed by a radio station in New South Wales, Australia. The interview was broadcast live throughout Australia, Kirk said.

The Australians — like the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and its counterparts in Canada, China and elsewhere — are keenly interested in the new GPS-based system, known as ADS-B.

Capstone, which aims to improve safety and efficiency with cost-effective avionics, is a combined effort of FAA’s Alaskan Region, the aviation industry and UAA’s Aviation Technology Division.

Because of the challenges its weather and terrain pose for aviation, Alaska is ground zero for safety testing. If equipment passes the test here, it can pass anywhere, said Kirk.

“UAA was part of the development and certification of this equipment for use in the FAA’s safety program,” he said.

A Cessna 180 owned by UAA (N4UA), a wheel-equipped research aircraft, was the certification “platform” for the first Capstone equipment, back in February 2000, Kirk said.

To listen to an audio podcast of Wednesday’s “NewsHour” segment, click here.

Information about the Capstone program can be found at www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/arc/programs/capstone/

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