FreeFlight Receives STC for AW139 ADS-B Installation

GOMEX helicopter operators now have the availability of a rule-compliant system.

AgustaWestland AW139

AgustaWestland AW139

AgustaWestland AW139

FreeFlight has received a supplemental type certificate (STC) for the installation of its RANGR FDL-978TX universal access transceiver (UAT) into AgustaWestland’s AW139 helicopter. According to FreeFlight, this is the first rule-compliant ADS-B out UAT available for Gulf of Mexico (GOMEX) helicopter operators.

GOMEX presents a complex area to fly with thousands of daily helicopter flights, and because ADS-B infrastructure already existed it became a good test area for emerging systems. “The FAA allowed operators to install early versions of ADS-B that do not meet the final rule,” according to FreeFlight’s president and CEO Tim Taylor.

FreeFlight teamed up with Chevron Corporation during the STC development process for the AW139 - a common helicopter used to fly as many as 11,000 oil rig workers to and from platforms in the Gulf on a daily basis. “Working with Chevron we tackled the significant challenges in incorporating ADS-B into AW139’s sophisticated avionics suite,” said Taylor. In the end, he found the process “quite straightforward” and he expects installation in other aircraft types with less complex avionics systems to be even easier.

The RANGR FDL-978TX provides ADS-B out data, reporting the aircraft's course, speed and altitude to air traffic controllers as well as nearby airplanes capable of receiving the information. The cost of the transmitter, antennas and installation kit is around $8,000, not including installation, according to FreeFlight. Additionally, a WAAS capable GPS must be available for the system to be functional. By 2020, aircraft operating in certain airspace, such as A, B and C, must be ADS-B out compliant.