ADS-B: Aircraft Owners and Prospective Owners, Learn the Alphabet! — Originally published in BusinessAir Magazine, January 2017, Volume 27, No. 1.

ADS-B stands for Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast. By January 1, 2020, the majority of aircraft operating within the United States will be required to have ADS-B Out capabilities – and for aircraft registered internationally, some compliance deadlines are even sooner. Aircraft lacking ADS-B Out capabilities after that date will be grounded or severely limited in where and how they can fly – perhaps for months!

The ADS-B Out requirements are just one element of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), which is being implemented in phases between 2012 and 2025. The purpose of NextGen is to transform America’s antiquated air traffic control (ATC) system from a radar-based system to a satellitebased system. ADS-B Out technology is also being required by other countries around the world and, in some instances, the compliance deadline is earlier than the United States. Australia, for example, requires all aircraft registered in that country to be ADS-B Out compliant by February 2, 2017, nearly three years ahead of the U.S. The European Union’s Sky Air Traffic Management Research program (SESAR) is on the same compliance schedule as the FAA.

What is ADS-B Out? ADS-B is technology that uses an airplane’s onboard global positioning system (GPS) to transmit the current position, speed, flight number and, most importantly, whether the airplane is climbing, descending or turning. The current radar-based system is not able to recognize and process information regarding climb, descent or turns. The transmitted information is sent to ATC and other aircraft. The current radar system sends updates once every two to twelve seconds. However, aircraft equipped with ADS-B Out capabilities transmit data every second. So, not only do the transmitted updates contain more information, including data on climb, descent and turns, but the updates also take place far more frequently.

Another upgrade, not currently mandated, is ADS-B In, which would allow aircraft that have been upgraded, not just to transmit the data, but also to receive the data, thus providing pilots with far more accurate information and situational awareness of their place in the sky.

Upgrading the system on an aircraft to incorporate ADS-B Out capabilities allows both ATC and pilots of other aircraft with ADS-B In to see the aircraft nearest to them with a graphical representation. While Traffic Alert and Collison Avoidance Systems (TCAS) currently provide some of this information, the additional data generated by ADS-B Out will make the information far more accurate.

Currently the FAA’s mandate only requires the installation of ADS-B Out. However, when scheduling the required upgrade to ADS-B Out between now and January 1, 2020, it would be prudent for aircraft owners to consider installing ADS-B In at the same time.

The good news is that, for over 90% of the business aircraft that must have this upgrade by January 1, 2020, an upgrade solution already exists. The bad news is that, since it takes approximately two weeks to perform the required upgrade, it isn’t feasible for the existing maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) service facilities in the United States to accommodate all of the aircraft that are required to have ADS-B Out capabilities by that due date. Given these facts, upgrading for ADS-B Out capabilities is something aircraft owners should be scheduling now with the appropriate MRO service center so that when the calendar changes to 2020, an owner’s aircraft is not grounded. Additionally, given that the benefits from the upgrade are directly related to safety, and other countries are already requiring this upgrade, why would an aircraft owner wait? Time is not on anyone’s side with this mandate.

For aircraft owners who plan to market their aircraft for sale in the next three years, this is certainly an item that potential buyers will be focusing on as more awareness of this requirement develops. The FAA is offering a rebate of $500 to the first 20,000 aircraft that apply and qualify for the rebate. The rebate became available on September 19, 2016. The FAA website provides good information about the required upgrade and the rebate at https://www.faa.gov/nextgen/equipadsb/.

Don’t wait! We already know that there are not enough maintenance slots to handle the demand for all the private aircraft that must comply before January 1, 2020. Aircraft that have not been equipped with ADS-B Out capabilities by January 1, 2020 will be grounded or have significant operational limitations. Do not count on the FAA granting any extensions to the deadline or any exemptions to the upgrade requirement: the FAA has been adamant that no extension or exemptions will be permitted.

Please contact Amanda Applegate at 310-392-5200 or aapplegate@aerlex.com.