February 21, 2004
The Capstone program is intended to reduce the incidence of weather-related accidents, mid-air collisions and terrain based concerns, by improving the pilot's situational awareness through advanced technologies, modern avionics, and information services, said Salazar. Under the program, the FAA will equip up to 200 commercial aircraft and helicopters in Southeast Alaska with a global positioning system based avionics package. This system will provide navigational guidance for flights on routes that are outside the operational service volume of ground based navigational aides. FAA is planning a three year evaluation period for the Capstone program. Eventually, Capstone avionics should also permit implementation of more efficient flight procedures and air traffic control services, according to the FAA.
A team from FAA contractor Helipro International Avionics Corporation is in Ketchikan installing the new equipment in the Taquan Air fleet. This includes daylight visible flight and multi-function displays, Intergrated Auditory System, an on-board computer, and a Terrain Awareness and Warning System (TAWS). The new technology creates a highway in the sky environment for pilots, and provides passengers with greater safety, comfort and confidence, said Salazar. The cost to equip each aircraft is approximately $90,000.
Utilizing GPS satellite technology, two color screens will display moving maps showing pilots, in 3D where they are in relation to mountains and to other aircraft. On board sensors and a terrain database, along with electronic flight path information, provide a "look ahead" capability, with warnings and alerts well in advance of potential hazards, allowing time for the pilot to make the necessary maneuvers for terrain avoidance. The new equipment automatically provides the pilot with current weather data, and gives dispatchers instant access to each aircraft's location. direction, speed and altitude on a computer screen.
The FAA has developed a pilot training program in conjunction with the University of Alaska, which is a prerequisite to piloting Capstone equipped aircraft. Installation of Capstone equipment and pilot training is underway, with the new safety features becoming standard on all Taquan Air flights by this summer, stated Salazar. Safety is the cornerstone of our business philosophy and participation in the Capstone program will further improve the overall safety of our flights, he said.
Taquan Air operates a standardized fleet of seven recently refurbished Dehavilland Beaver floatplanes. Implementation of the Capstone program will place state-of-the-art safety technology at our pilots' fingertips and add to the overall features of our aircraft, according to Salazar.
The company employs 15 persons
in the winter and 35 in the summer season.
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