The Jan. 1, 2020, mandate for ADS-B Out is fast approaching, with aircraft owners scrambling to find the right fit for their aircraft and their type of flying, as well as schedule time at an avionics shop.
With the mandate just four months away, what are the most important things you need to know today?
1. If you fly in airspace that requires a transponder, you must equip with ADS-B Out.
The rule specifically states:
“After Jan. 1, 2020, no person may operate an aircraft in the following airspace unless equipped with ADS-B Out:
- Class B and Class C airspace areas;
- Within 30 nautical miles of an airport listed in appendix D, section 1 to this part from the surface upward to 10,000’ MSL;
- Above the ceiling and within the lateral boundaries of a Class B or Class C airspace area designated for an airport upward to 10,000’ MSL;
- Class E airspace within the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia at and above 10,000’ MSL, excluding the airspace at and below 2,500’ above the surface; and
- Class E airspace at and above 3,000’ MSL over the Gulf of Mexico from the coastline of the United States out to 12 nautical miles.”
2. Are any aircraft exempt?
While there have been rumors that some aircraft are exempt from the mandate — such as those built before a certain year — the rule states that only aircraft that were originally certified without an electrical system “or that has not subsequently been certified with such a system installed, including balloons and gliders,” may fly without ADS-B Out.
But that’s allowed only in specific airspace, according to FAA officials, who spell it out this way:
- (1) Outside any Class B or Class C airspace area; and
- (2) Below the altitude of the ceiling of a Class B or Class C airspace area designated for an airport, or 10,000’ MSL, whichever is lower.
3. What’s the difference between ADS-B Out and ADS-B In? Should I also install ADS-B In?
ADS-B stands for Automatic Dependent Suveillance-Broadcast. ADS-B Out refers to an aircraft broadcasting its position and other information to air traffic control and other aircraft.
ADS-B In, which is not part of the mandate, refers to an aircraft receiving broadcasts and messages from the ground network, including free traffic and weather information.
“ADS-B Out is a requirement if you fly in the ADS-B airspace,” explains Ric Peri, vice president, government and industry affairs for the Aircraft Electronics Association. “ADS-B In is a benefit. If you fly along any of the coasts or high population areas or fly in active weather areas, then ADS-B In makes flying more fun.”
4. What if I don’t equip or miss the Jan. 1, 2020 deadline?
The good news: You won’t be grounded.
“Just as today, there is regulatory relief to be able to transit airspace with a failed transponder,” Peri explains.
However, the FAA recently published some very strict airspace access requirements for aircraft owners who want to fly through the mandated airspace without ADS-B.
You’ll have to request an authorized deviation from ATC at least an hour before your proposed flight.
The bad news: It’s up to each ATC facility to determine “whether accommodations for non-ADS-B equipped aircraft can be made,” according to FAA officials.
So pilots need to beware — and be aware — that just because you request it, doesn’t mean you’re automatically going to get approval.
“ATC has the authority to deny such requests when deemed appropriate,” FAA officials said.
5. Is there time to equip before the 2020 mandate kicks in?
Avionics shops have been warning aircraft owners for months that time is running out.
But you should be able to find an avionics shop that can install a system for you, according to Peri.
“It is quickly approaching rush hour, so your preferred shop may already have a queue, but if you shop around, there still is capacity,” Peri says.
6. And the big question: How much is it going to cost?
There’s no average cost for general aviation aircraft, according to Peri.
“Every aircraft is unique and that uniqueness limits average assumptions,” he explains.
He acknowledges that often causes confusion when aircraft owners try to compare prices without looking at the difference in the aircraft configurations.
Some aircraft owners will be able to satisfy the mandate with something like the skyBeacon from uavionix, which is priced at less than $1,900.
Some industry insiders have pegged the average price at around $7,000.
Of course, many aircraft owners are adding — or upgrading — avionics while their plane is in the shop for ADS-B. That further complicates finding an average price.
The Aircraft Electronics Association’s Peri advises aircraft owners to not just think about the 2020 mandate, but to think long-term.
Focus on value, rather than the cost, he says.
“Avionics is a system,” he says. “ADS-B is a part of that system. One can focus on simply ‘checking off the box’ of the ADS-B Out regulatory requirement with the lowest cost system only to find themselves having to replace their transponder in a few years.
“They would be money ahead by first looking to see the age and operation of their transponder, then deciding whether to upgrade their transponder with an ADS-B compliant system or to get by with the lowest cost option,” he continues.
He adds that at the recent EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, he spoke with a number of aircraft owners who opted for the lowest cost option only to have to replace their transponder a short time later, resulting in a higher overall expense.
Of course, there’s much more you need to know about ADS-B before making the right decision for your aircraft. While we will continue to write about ADS-B long after the mandate goes into effect, there are many resources available today to answer any other questions you may have.
The FAA has a web page dedicated to ADS-B and other NextGen technologies, which includes answers to many frequently asked questions.
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association has an ADS-B selection tool on its website that will help aircraft owners determine the best solutions for their aircraft and their type of flying.
And every year the Aircraft Electronics Association prints its free Pilot’s Guide, which includes a directory of its member companies, as well as articles about ADS-B. You can request a printed copy or read a digital copy of this year’s guide on the association’s website. Go to AEA.net, then search under Publications for AEA’s Pilot’s Guide.