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A Day In The Life: Dennis Yaeger


Learn more about Aireon from the Aireon team themselves. This series, “A Day in The Life,” will allow the Aireon team to speak first-hand about their experiences, views, and future outlook on space-based ADS-B.  Aireon is proud of our extraordinary team of experts and aim to highlight them in this blog series. We hope you enjoy meeting the Aireon team and further understand our strong commitment to aviation.

I graduated from Gonzaga University back before they were known as a basketball power.  I eventually went to work at Boeing, following in my father’s footsteps where he worked years before on 707s and 727s.

Boeing was a great kick-off to my career in aviation because I was able to learn a lot about the different systems and areas within the industry. I changed jobs about every 3 years to challenge myself to learn new and different skills.

I’ve held many titles. First, I was a Retrofit Engineer for 737s and 757s focusing on the avionics, flight controls and lighting systems, then Customer Support Engineer, Test System Development Software Engineer for F22s and RAH-66 Comanches and an Embedded Software Engineer. As an Embedded Software Engineer, I was working on a team developing a phase array that would be initially deployed on Paul Allen’s 757 so that he could watch his Portland Trail Blazers on DirectTV, as he flew across the U.S. Nowadays, this is very standard on larger aircraft.

My next big change came when my friend, who worked on radar systems for Sensis, was looking for engineers to work on Medium Power Radar (MPR). Luckily for me, my phase array experience applied. In this role, I learned a lot about radar and aircraft tracking, especially how international programs operated. I was the lead system engineer for the first two Multilateration (MLAT) systems deployed and operational in the world in Frankfurt, Germany and Heathrow, UK. This technology changed air traffic control throughout the world. All major airports now have MLAT systems, and I supported several deployments, including the ASDE-X program for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

In my next gig, my team and I deployed and experimented with new technologies being adopted around the world on the Sensis “test bed.” Being the Program Manager/Engineer on several of these radar development projects made this job very exciting.

Then, I became program manager for the Sensis Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) server product line. This system took several ADS-B ground stations and combined them into a single system that would feed automations systems into air traffic control.

Next thing you know, I’m the Implementation Engineering Manager for Aireon.  AireonSM space-based ADS-B will make aviation safer and more efficient. Period!

Aireon is providing me the opportunity to change the world again. First, it was in the deployment of MLAT and WAM with my role at Sensis and now with Aireon, we are providing certified ADS-B data to any Air Navigation Service Provider (ANSP), as a service.  The Aireon system, in simple terms, is a collection of 66 ADS-B receivers deployed on the Iridium® NEXT satellite constellation.  These receivers are very powerful; a single receiver will cover the entire U.S., compared to a typical ground based receiver that will see approximately 200 nautical miles.  Data from each of these receivers are transmitted to the Aireon data processing center using the Iridium NEXT system as a backbone.

The Aireon system will provide ADS-B surveillance coverage to locations in the world where no coverage previously exists.  It will also provide an extra layer of surveillance that increases system safety and allows ANSPs to save money by decommissioning less efficient surveillance layers.

As the Implementation Engineering Manager, I’m focused on testing, building and validating the Aireon system through several different activities tests: Service Delivery Point (SDP) deployment, Service Acceptance Tests (SAT) and Implementation Service Acceptance Test (ISAT) activities.  SDP deployment and ISATs require a lot of coordination and planning with the customer and doing on-site surveys, installations, trouble shooting and testing the system. While on site with the customer, we also integrate Aireon’s space-based ADS-B data into the ANSP automation systems.

Every day is different in the Aireon implementation group.  This makes the job very interesting.  We may be supporting sales with a site survey or technical presentation at an event.  We may be deploying a SDP or conducting a SAT.  Always something new.

Space-based ADS-B is going to change the way we manage and control air traffic.  It will give air traffic controllers more capabilities and efficiencies in their system. Travel will become safer for all.  It’s a very exciting time to be on the Aireon team and things are just getting better!

Once all of the satellites are deployed, Aireon’s space-based ADS-B service will be operational and distributing live aircraft data to ANSPs. We will have access to a 100% global set of data. As an engineer, data excites me, and the prospects of what tools, algorithms and capabilities that our data can create is exhilarating. The possibilities are endless! I’m looking forward to the coming years of work that lay ahead at Aireon.