Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) is part of the FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) for air traffic control. It’s a satellite based system which allows pilots to see in the cockpit what air traffic controllers are seeing on the ground, including other aircraft and any potential hazards from weather or terrain. Pilots approaching airports will also be able to see the location of aircraft and support vehicles on the ground, and a collision avoidance system is in development.
The Benefits of ADS-B
As well as improving safety, the FAA believes that ADS-B will benefit the environment by enabling aircraft to take more direct routes, potentially saving on flight times and fuel consumption. The pinpoint location of aircraft using satellites will allow them to fly more closely together, effectively increasing the capacity of crowded skies. ADS-B will also be able to track aircraft in remote areas where the use of radar is impractical.
What is the ADS-B Mandate?
With the intention of ensuring the availability of all these benefits to both the commercial and private aviation sectors, in May 2010 the FAA published federal regulations regarding the use of ADS-B.
The regulations make it mandatory starting January 1, 2020 for all aircraft flying in certain designated US airspaces to be equipped with “ADS Out” transmitting equipment.
Apart from a few very specific exceptions, the designated airspaces are those for which a Mode C transponder is currently required. The new equipment is known as “ADS Out” because it enables the aircraft to broadcast its position, speed and altitude continuously to the receiving stations.
“ADS In” equipment is also available to allow aircraft to receive information from ground networks, but this is not yet included in the mandate.
What You Need to Do
Get Fitted for ADS-B Right Away
If you have not already fitted your aircraft with ADS Out equipment you should not delay too much longer. Suitably qualified and experienced installers are likely to be in heavy demand as the January 1 deadline approaches and numerous stories are already in circulation about avionics shops which have struggled both with the installation and the necessary testing.
Difficulties with the physical installation of the equipment are not unknown, but the FAA’s own data suggests that problems with the programming of the complex ADS-B software are a much more common cause of test failure. Shops which have excelled in traditional radio engineering are therefore not necessarily the best option for ADS-B; and it’s important that you carry out thorough research before choosing an installer to avoid frustrating and potentially expensive delays.
You should also note that not all avionics shops are equipped to carry out testing themselves. But they should all have an established procedure for testing their installations and it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with this before proceeding.
Get Your Existing ADS-B Systems Re-Tested
If you do already have ADS-B installed, it’s important to have it re-tested before the deadline, because the FAA will treat an aircraft with incorrectly performing equipment in the same way as one which does not have it installed at all.
Choosing Your System
If you're buying ADS-B for the first time, a bewildering range of systems is now available.
For ADS Out a panel installation is usually the only option, although in some cases it may be possible to upgrade an existing Mode S transponder. But portable units can be used to receive ADS In messages, and hybrid In/Out devices can also be obtained. The right system for you will depend on the type of aircraft and flying that you do, but you should in any event be anticipating an outlay of several thousand dollars for a good quality unit which meets the regulations, excluding any installation and testing costs.
Contact We fly
If you’re concerned about how to meet the potential cost of ADS-B compliance, an Aircraft Upgrade loan from We Florida Financial may be the answer. Aircraft refinancing or unsecured line of credit (LOC) options are available, and funding can usually be finalized in a matter of days. To find out more please call us at 954-913-7871 or send us an online message here.