WASHINGTON—NASA’s Langley Research Center plans to purchase ADS-B In avionics for three Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-900ERs, in order to begin operational testing of a NASA-developed fuel- and time-saving software application in revenue operations, starting in early 2017.

The application, called Traffic Aware Strategic Aircrew Requests (TASAR), resides on an electronic flight bag (EFB) in the cockpit, and takes in a variety of information from the onboard avionics and external sources, including ADS-B In traffic and weather from connectivity services, to suggest changes to a route or altitude that will provide a reduction in either time or fuel burn by a preselected amount.

Unlike ADS-B Out, a system that broadcasts an aircraft’s position and other information to the FAA for air traffic control surveillance, and must be installed by 2020, ADS-B In, which brings in the same information from other aircraft, has not been mandated by the FAA.

Although TASAR can be used without ADS-B In, its addition allows the software to determine what potential reroutes or altitude changes—which pilots must request over the radio —will likely be approved by air traffic control due to nearby traffic. NASA issued a solicitation for the purchase and certification of the equipment Oct. 24.

Both Alaska Airlines and Virgin America took part in earlier NASA trials of the application, using an Advanced Aerospace Solutions Piaggio P180 avionics testbed, in June 2015. NASA has been researching the ingredients for TASAR for more than a decade, but in 2012 began developing a specific application, the Traffic Aware Planner (TAP), following an Office of Management and Budget effort to develop tools useful enough that airlines would voluntarily equip with ADS-B In. TASAR evolved from TAP.

Virgin American, which Alaska is planning to acquire, was the first to sign up as a partner on the program. Virgin will operate TASAR through Astronautics Corp. of America EFBs on Airbus A319 and A320 aircraft, but will not likely start its operational trials until after the acquisition closes.

The Alaska Airlines setup includes iPads hardwired to two tablet interface modules (TIM) that are connected to onboard avionics and Gogo broadband through UTC Aerospace Systems aircraft interface devices. For the TASAR application, the system acquires own-ship position and other avionics data from the avionics bus, as well as real-time weather, temperature and wind data uplinked from WSI over the Gogo network.

A 2012 analysis by NASA contractor Engility Corp. of approximately 1,500, mostly transcontinental, Alaska Airlines and Virgin America flights, showed that TAP-suggested route changes would have saved Alaska approximately 1 million gal. of fuel and 110,000 min. of flight time, for a total annual savings of $5.2 million. Typical numbers on a flight between Seattle and Newark, New Jersey, would be approximately 8 min. and 60 gal. saved. For Virgin America, the benefit was 1.4 million gal. and 134,000 min. saved, yielding an annual benefit of $5.1 million.