GA reluctant to jump on NextGen bandwagon

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The FAA needs to take speedier action, as well as assure pilots and aircraft owners that expenditures for equipment will not significantly change for general aviation to move ahead to prepare for the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), members of Congress were told in a hearing held Wednesday by the House Committee on Small Business.

Witnesses told committee members that general aviation aircraft owners are reluctant to equip their planes because of uncertainty surrounding the FAA’s ability to keep to a schedule, confusion over proposed regulations, and possible price changes on equipment.

Only a few thousand of more than 120,000 GA aircraft are currently equipped to meet the Jan. 1, 2020, mandate for ADS-B Out equipment, witnesses told the committee.

Witnesses urged government officials to quickly implement a loan program to help buy necessary equipment to comply with the NextGen 2020 mandate.

Speaking for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Bob Hepp said the benefits of equipping for NextGen are unclear to pilots and aircraft owners. An AOPA member and owner of Aviation Adventures, which has operations at three northern Virginia airports, Hepp reported that to  equip his company’s 39 aircraft would cost about $312,000. He added that the uncertainty of FAA’s moves makes GA owners reluctant to invest in new equipment.

Cost of the equipment is not the total expense aircraft owners have, added Professor Kenneth Button, who is the director of the Center for Transportation, Policy, Operations and Logistics at George Mason University. There is also the major expense to have the equipment installed. The longer aircraft owners wait to equip, the more expensive it will become for installation and the longer the delay, he noted.

The FAA needs to streamline its certification and field approvals, Paula Derks, president of the Aircraft Electronics Association, said. She also urged the FAA to improve its communications to pilots and aircraft owners, informing them of NextGen’s benefits.

The FAA also should make sure that, in those communications, all regional facilities have the same information and hold the same positions on requirements, she said.

Tim Taylor, speaking for the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, urged the committee to steadfastly maintain the long-standing NextGen deployment schedule, saying the mandate is necessary and achievable.

Taylor is president and CEO of FreeFlight Systems, one of the first companies to release NextGen avionics on the market.

He told the committee there are 120,000 to 140,000 general aviation aircraft operating in the United States that are required to meet the 2020 mandate. He noted that avionics manufacturers have the capability to help all operators meet this deadline. Taylor also encouraged the FAA to show strong leadership in this area and aggressively consider other incentives to encourage owners to equip.

“Government and industry have worked in harmony to ensure that equipment is available at the right price and at the right time to provide immediate and long-term benefits to those who equip today,” Taylor told the committee, which is chaired by Rep. Sam Graves, a long-time pilot and aircraft owner who is a passionate advocate for general aviation.

In opening the hearing, Graves noted that general aviation carries 166 million passengers to 5,000 public airports in the United States, many of which have no scheduled commercial service. General aviation, he added, employs about 1.2 million people and contributes approximately $150 billion to the overall GDP.

Comments

  1. Hugh says

    All we really need to make this program functional enough is a box or sender to add the out signal to existing transponders. I have a GLD39 with Garmin Pilot on an iPad Mini solely to have current charts. If it depicts significant weather; I stay home. When it gives a traffic alert it’s of little to know value, usually no where near me.

  2. Chuck says

    I’m a dedicated GA pilot, mainly flying VFR in D/E airspace. I fear that the cost of NexGen compliance will isolate me to the ” hinterland”… Mode-C and other requirements were reasonable investments in safety, but ADS-B appears to be cost effective only for commercial and corporate operators. I’m fortunate to be a rural aviator.

  3. Dj says

    I guess I am in the minority here. I fly an Experimental Amateur Built aircraft, and just purchased a new transponder to equip my aircraft for ADS-B out. I have had ADS-B in for some time now, displaying on an Ipad running WingX. The eye-opener for me was when a corporate jet flew into my airport that had ADS-B out, and all of a sudden lots of traffic appeared on my iPad, triggered by the jet’s ADS-B out transmission.

    None of the new toys replace the need to keep awareness out the window, but “knowing” there is traffic 5 miles out heading in your direction is far better than not being able to see it until it is a half a mile away from you and closing fast. NextGen offers some excellent safety features that simply weren’t possible even a few short years ago.

    I agree the cost is quite high right now, especially for those poor souls still flying certified aircraft, but there are some clear benefits.

  4. Steve says

    I can’t speak for the GA community, but I can speak for myself, and I doubt my position is unique.

    I have no plans to equip for NextGen prior to 12/31/19 (unless the mandate moves out) and then to install the absolute minumum equipment to allow me to fly legally. I fly an experimental ameteur built airplane for pure recreation, VFR only. So far I see absolutely no benefit to me in the whole NextGen scheme.

    Unfortunately, I do live in close proximity to Class B and C airspace and sometimes fly above 10,000 so not equipping is not really an option.

    Even if they got the price of a compliant box down to $100 I wouldn’t buy one as I’d rather use that money for gas (which I do get a benefit from).

  5. Cary says

    I’m a retired corporate pilot who now is in private ownership of a light single engine aircraft. I decided to take the plunge and get this 2020 compliance thing out of the way. It’s not cheap, and to work correctly, everyone flying needs to be outputting ADS-B through their transponder (extended squitter). If you’re relying on this system, one single aircraft not outputting could be the guy that kills you! More imporatanlty, if you’re really relying on this system to be an effective traffic avoidance tool, you can’t be flying an airplane and gazing at a monitor. Currently, I’m using an i-Pad with Foreflight for the ADS-B “In” side, which has no audio function to warn you of traffic, so you really need to be staring at the monitor looking for traffic, which is a potential hazard. To do this correctly, one MUST invest in a super expensive traffic system that affords audio and visual traffic alerts. Garmin & Avidyne equipment are way outside the reach of most GA folks. The FAA really needs to step up and expedite the approval of other more affordable & fully functional technologies that will benefit the masses, not the few who can afford higher cost solutions. Bottom line, I’m now 2020 compliant at a cost of roughly $10K Do I feel safer? Absolutely not, and I don’t feel like investing another $15K to $20K to get there. The guys making bank right now are Garmin, Avidyne and the avionics shops. I have been on forums and have asked Foreflight why they can’t add an audio function to their traffic system? No answer.

    • ManyDecadesGA says

      @ Cary. Don’t be fooled. You didn’t “get it out of the way” in the least. All you did was spend $10K for little or no benefit, except to postpone the inevitable, or perhaps to help FAA propagate the illusion of progress, tied up in an obsolete and failed ATC paradigm (of hand-carrying airplanes 1:1 with a pseudo radar vectors). So you can bet that 2020 isn’t going to happen in anything near what FAA has predicted or mandated, and isn’t the end of ATS related avionics evolution needed for GA. If FAA holds the line on 2020 ADS- B equipage, not only will it still not work, but they will essentially sign a death warrant for low end GA and UAV incorporation. Worse yet, they will postpone for two more decades any real solution to NextGen that is truly affordable, that will work, and that will actually address ALL airspace user needs globally. Postscript: Any aircraft avionics that can’t hack managing dynamic 3D and 4D RNP based trajectory separation the way global transport airline aircraft already mostly can do, is nothing but an obsolete boat anchor, no matter what the GA magazine PR ads says, and no matter FAA might do with ADS-B, ADS-R, and UAT. So all that present NextGen now does for GA is waste money, for everybody except the avionics shops and avionics vendors.

  6. Cary says

    I’m a retired corporate pilot who now is in private ownership of a light single engine aircraft. I decided to take the plunge nd get this 2020 compliance thing out of the way. It’s not cheap, and to work correctly, everyone flying needs to be outputting ADS-B through their transponder (extended squitter). One single aircraft not outputting could be the guy that kills you! More imporatanlty, if you’re really relying on this system to be an effective traffic avoidance tool, you can’t be flying an airplane and gazing at a monitor. Currently, I’m using an i-Pad with Foreflight for the ADS-B “In” side, which has no audio function to warn you of traffic, so you really need to be staring at the monitor looking for traffic, which is a potential hazard. To do this correctly, one MUST invest in a super expensive traffic system that affords audio and visual traffic alerts. Garmin & Avidyne equipment are way outside the reach of most GA folks. The FAA really needs to expedite the approval of other more affordable & fully functional technologies that will benefit the masses, not the few who can afford higher cost solutions. Bottom line, I’m now 2020 compliant. Do I feel safer? Absolutely not, and I don’t feel llike investing another

  7. ManyDecadesGA says

    It is true, …GA is NOT jumping on the NextGen bandwagon. But it has little to do with the reasons cited in the testimony.

    GA is not jumping on the NextGen bandwagon because the FAA’s plan and criteria are wrong, the avionics are far too expensive for what little they will do, and there is virtually NO benefit to GA with FAA’s current flawed and obsolete plan.

    1. It has nothing to do with FAA taking speedy action, or not.
    2. FAA cannot assure GA that equipment requirements will not change, because equipment requirements almost certainly WILL change. They have to. The present FAA requirements are WRONG, unnecessary, over-specified, unnecessarily expensive, and worst of all, will NOT WORK. As such they are largely a waste of money (e.g., WAAS, and LPV, and ADS-B fueled pseudo-radar used to hand-carry airplanes for separation service).
    3.No way are a 120,000 GA airplanes going to equip, regardless of the FAA’s flawed rule.
    4. It is NOT going to get more expensive if a GA operator waits. FAA is going to have to shelve the present criteria. It is just a waste of money for most of GA to try to equip now.
    5. Loans to equip are ridiculous. Only a fool would take a loan to equip with presently defined and flawed GA NextGen avionics. It does little of what’s really needed for an affordable adequately functioning future airspace system.
    6. If any “streamlining of approvals” needs to be done it is along the lines cited by RTCA TF4’s recommendation a decade ago. And it is needed for streamlining RNP and GBAS/GLS, and data link, … not for accelerating already obsolete WAAS fueled ADS-B avionics, or UAT ,which are each going to be obsolete before they are even considered by most GA users for installation.
    6. Free Flight Systems is hardly an “impartial commentor” to be making statements in this process about what GA needs. They have a direct financial stake in this issue, and its outcome, particularly if and when NextGen all collapses into a $40B failure, as bad or worse than MLS once was.

    • Tom says

      Thanks for your efforts in making these comments. It really gets absurd when some government types think that “loans” are the answer to everything whether it is borrowing by a college student to go to a college that they can’t afford or to buy a car that they can’t afford or to buy a house that they can’t afford or to fund the government’s “budget???” that we can’t afford. Typical abdication of personal responsibility as well as ultimately trying to shift the burden in “inequality of income” strategies.

      Next generation in one word “sucks”. It’s just more government trying to run our lives with little to add in the way of “safety” and at a great burden of expense for no benefit the same as the 3rd class medical. Please just leave us alone to fly our little airplanes free of the burdensome “system”. We don’t need IFR and we don’t need radar separation. Just get us some mogas at the airport – seriously. Thanks.

    • Bill Ross says

      Lemme see, the last shall be first – It wasn’t the govt types how thought that loans were a good idea, it was the alphabets. Next gen does not suck, it provides a level of safety that has not existed to date, i.e., ADS-B. If you wanna be left alone you do not need ADS-B, just keep out of Class A, B and C and below 10,000.You may not need IFR, I do. Leaving you alone to fly your airplanes is all well and fine, stay outta my way, please.

      ManyDecadesGA supplies precious few facts to support his statements, although I agree that the FAA is, well they are the FAA and they are in the way. More power to him if he can predict what the FAA is going to do, hell they don’t know what they’re gonna do.

      Good night

      • ManyDecadesGA says

        Dear Bill. Unfortunately it is you that may be thin on facts. ADS-B is widely known to be significantly vulnerable in its present form, and will not solve the needed C-N-S blend in any rational form (for a variety of key reasons), let alone the “cost per unit separation service” issue. It will not solve the “Capacity per unit time, per acre, per dollar issue” either. I don’t know what you fly, but it will not solve the affordable airspace system or assured access issues for anyone, and especially not UAVs or sport GA. So in the extremely unlikely event that NextGen actually happens some day in anything close to the form FAA proposes, you’re quite welcome to pay your fully allocated costs for access to your Class A, B, and C airspace, which will unnecessarily be many times the cost of the $100/ flight fee being proposed by the administration (if not even an order of magnitude more). But most of the rest of us in GA are certainly not going to pay one dime for a featherbedding inefficient obsolete ATC system, and a failed NextGen concept that ought to be called PastGen, that you seem willing to tolerate and encourage. At this point, the general application of ADS-B’s effect alone on overall airspace system safety is far from established or confirmed. For example, just as a starter, it does absolutely NOTHING to address the over 38,000 unwanted TCAS advisories that happened in US airspace a few years ago. The airlines knew this long ago, and they equipped in a far more rational way, with FMSs with RNP, data links, and a blend of ADS-A, ADS-B, and ADS-C that doesn’t need obsolete WAAS, UAT, ADS-R and airspace wasteful concepts like straight-in angular LPV at all.

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