ADS-B already benefiting pilots

Over the past year, this series has covered just about all there is to know about the FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen).

We have received a fair amount of mail, with many in the general aviation community seeking information on ADS-B hardware. The question that comes up most often is the current state of ADS-B installations throughout the U.S.

With just seven years to go before the 2020 requirement for mandatory ADS-B equipment for aircraft flying in the busiest airspace, almost all of the more than 800 ADS-B antennas have been installed.

Fig1Figure 1 demonstrates how well, despite financial cutbacks, the folks at the FAA have done with keeping things as close to schedule as possible. The turquoise areas are ADS-B installations that are already installed. The yellow areas are the remaining locations that will be completed by the end of 2013.

You may find it interesting to know why the area that has the yellow circle was picked on Dec. 17, 2009, to be one of the first areas for ADS-B deployment.

Historically, the Gulf of Mexico has been a problem area when it comes to navigating aircraft. Because there was limited offshore radar coverage throughout the region, ATC could never actually see air traffic in this area. Add to that limited radio frequency transmission, which meant pilots flying in this area routinely had to relay their positions and messages to dispatchers on the mainland, who in turn relayed the messages to ATC. This increased the level of errors made in communicating and the time it took to get a message where it needed to be. These delays caused all kinds of problems when approaching weather conditions came in, allowing for little to no time for evacuating people from these petroleum platforms.

From a meteorology standpoint, this region is very active.

It is also home to more than 3,800 oil and natural gas platforms. Over the years, helicopter air traffic has increased to between 5,000 and 9,000 flights per day. Yes, I said per day.

A system was developed to navigate within this region by using a grid of squares. A series of 20 mile by 20 mile virtual squares was set up throughout the Gulf. Only one helicopter can be inside one of these squares at a time.

GridsFig2With ADS-B, all of this goes away. In the Gulf it was a walk in the park to install ADS-B antennas and transceivers on top of strategically located oil platforms. This provided a complete ADS-B system to pilots and ATC throughout the region.

Taking full advantage of these oil platforms, weather-sensing equipment also was installed on strategically located platforms, offering far superior weather reporting to aircraft flying in those areas.

ADS-B has eliminated the grid routing system. Now helicopter pilots in this region can fly direct to their destination with just in-time communications. To add even more benefits to this system, spacing between aircraft is reduced to five miles. The same thing holds true for the commercial guys. While in this area, spacing between aircraft will decrease from 120 miles down to the same five miles used by the choppers.

These services soon will be part of NextGen for pilots across the country. By 2020, any aircraft flying within controlled airspace will be required to have both ADS-B in and ADS-B out.

AlphaDesFig4Worried about what that will cost you? In the past year manufacturers of GPS products, flight planning systems, audio systems, interface electronics, and communications are either delivering ADS-B products or are in the development stages. These products are being introduced with all kinds of options that can be fine-tuned for each and every airplane in GA, from a non-electric Aeronca Champ to Piper Navajos. The best part? The prices of these systems are already dropping like a rock.

This is the latest in a series of articles looking at the impact of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) on GA pilots. 


  1. says

    Jessy, we here in Fiji will not have the time to wait, we have to have ADS-B OUT fitted by the end of the year. This will then double the value of our C150 fleet at today’s costs of fitment. You guys are lucky, you have 7 years for the price to come down. Maybe by then there will be some other cheaper form of “radar”. Fiji CAA has decided that the 50 aircraft in Fiji airspace must have ADS-B OUT buy this years end or no renewal of the yearly C of A, I believe that is called blackmail. So if any one can help with a cheaper , approved unit, I would greatly appreciate it.

  2. Jessy Bazil says

    Like any national system with the Feds involved there will be some info that may contradict what the real facts are. I work it every day, and in time things will sift out.
    However, I recently attended a Next/Gen presentation at Sun n’ Fun this past April provided by GAN. It was by far the most informative presentation of the entire show. Jeff Boccaccio was the presenter and he was awesome. Fantastic speaker, teacher, comedian, and engineer. I have never left a forum like this with the amount of knowledge and fun in many years at Sun n’ Fun.
    My hats off to GAN for bringing this to the GA community. The only down side was it was only for 2 days. I had many fellow pilots that attended Sun n’ Fun that were not there for Friday and Saturday and missed the opportunity sitting in on this very knowledge base and entertaining show.
    If GAN brings this to Oshkosh I would recommend everyone to see this. It’s worth it even if you only just attended this event.

    Again, many thanks to the people at GAN news and Jeff Boccaccio from Matchbox Systems

  3. Gene says

    On April 14th, 2013 I flew from Northern Illinois to Carbondale, IL with my ADS-B receiver and iPad. I received no less than 4 ADS-B stations all the way to Carbondale in the southern tip of Illinois. Every ADS-B coverage map I see, including the one dated 4-4-13, indicates no coverage in Southern Illinois. I’m not complaining, just indicating that maybe the coverage maps need a new update. I fly this route 3-4 times per year and I was very pleased to finally have coverage on my complete flight.

  4. Cliff T says

    I wish the FAA would cancel the TSO for non ADS-B out transponders. It is crazy that one would spend money on a transponder that will become basically obsolete in 7 years time. That would simplify life for the manufacturers, drive up competition in the space and hence drive cost down and get more aircraft transmitting ADS-B out sooner. The more ADS-B out aircraft the more likely it is that I will be able to see them on my iPad.

    • Rosie says

      Are you prepared to upgrade to an ADS-B out transponder on your aircraft now? Xcelling the TSO would force you to remove or disable your, (then) non TSO’d transponder.

      • Cliff T says

        My apologies I wasn’t clear enough in what I intended. The FAA should do the same as they have for ELTs. Stop the manufacture and sale of NEW devices that are not ADS-B compliant and will become obsolete in 7 years. Grandfather the existing installed base to wither away, don’t force the replacement until 2020. So to be very specific, IMHO, all transponders sold from now on should be 1090ES ADS-B Out capable.

      • Cliff T says

        And to answer Rosie’s point. I hope I won’t need a new transponder soon, but if I do I will certainly buy 1090ES ADS-B out. It will currently cost about $1,000 more but it will last long past 2020.

  5. Clay says

    The article includes the statement that “By 2020, any aircraft flying within controlled airspace will be required to have both ADS-B in and ADS-B out.” 14 CFR 91.225 that mandates equipage by Jan 1, 2020 is titled “Automatic Dependent Surveillance–Broadcast (ADS–B) Out equipment and use.” There is nothing about ADS-B in the rule.

  6. Bob says

    If XM had not chosen to price it’s service so high we could have had the weather to many more GA pilots sooner. Several ADS-B receivers are now priced low enough that you can buy them for less than 2 years of the lowest priced XM ($35/mo) service.
    You will need an Ipad (which many have) or a GPS that is capable of displaying the
    ADS-B such as the iFLY or others..
    Per Wayne’s commnt, if the mfg’s can get the ADS-B out price down to a resonable level then we have a complete system for GA, however weather is a big help. My 496 will soon become a paperweight or a good buy on eBay for pure VFR flying.


  7. John says

    The fact that FAA is currently withholding traffic from those that currently only have ADs-B in shows that safety is not top of their mind.

  8. says

    It would be greatly appreciated if someone could advise all the Companies that have ADS-B OUT, not in, OUT, at a reasonable price, and that include 1090ES

    All that seems to be in the news is , how good it is for weather and such, not for safety as in OUT.

    We realise that Garmin is way ahead of all, but one has to give up their first born first born’s to pay for it.

    Any thoughts


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