ADS-B for General Aviation

Are you curious about ADS-B and what it means to general aviation in the US? You’ve come to right place. Besides tracking FAA’s nationwide roll-out of ADS-B and emerging equipment choices for those ready to get on board the ADS-B train, you’ll also be able to share your insights and experiences and learn from others along the way. This is going to be an interesting journey. I’m glad you’re here to share it with us.

For those not yet informed about ADS-B, I provided some useful links below. If needed, please review these first so you have a context for the discussion that follows.

FAA – ADS-B Web Site

FAA – ADS-B General Information (1 of 2)

FAA – ADS-B General Information (2 of 2)

FAA – ADS-B FAQ

Wikipedia – article about ADS-B

In a nutshell, ADS-B is a technology solution that pinpoints an aircraft’s location using satellite GPS navigation, and allows the aircraft to constantly broadcast its precise location and other flight data (e.g., altitude, velocity) to nearby aircraft and air traffic controllers. ADS-B will for the first time allow both pilots and controllers to see the same real-time displays of air traffic, thus improving safety and air traffic management.

ADS-B stands for:

Automatic – always on and requires no operator intervention.

Dependent – depends on an accurate Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) signal or a Flight Management System (FMS) for positional data.

Surveillance – provides “radar-like” surveillance services to determine the position of an aircraft.

Broadcast – continuously broadcasts aircraft position and other data to any properly equipped aircraft and ground station.

Why Is It Important?

  • For you as a taxpayer, ADS-B infrastructure is significantly cheaper to install and maintain than today’s radar-based system
  • For air traffic control, it’s more accurate and position updates occur more often, and it provides coverage in areas not currently covered by radar. This improves safety for all and more efficient airspace utilization.
  • For you as PIC, better situational awareness of other aircraft in the area, including non-ADS-B equipped aircraft (TIS-B), plus information about weather and meteorological conditions (FIS-B).

More efficient airspace utilization benefits both air traffic control and pilots alike by improving ‘cockpit involvement’ in the ATC process. By knowing precisely where other aircraft are in proximity to your aircraft, better spacing and arrival procedures improve safety, efficiency and better use of terminal facilities.

What Do I Need To Do and When?

The FAA ‘Mandate’ (14 CFR 91 Final Rule dated May 28, 2010) states that by January 1, 2020, all aircraft operating in an airspace where a Mode C transponder is currently required will also be required to carry an ADS-B Out transmitter. Note that ADS-B In is not required and the current transponder requirement remains in effect (Sec. 91.215).

That’s the ‘mandate’, and many GA airplane owners just see dollar signs and are uncertain about what real benefit they’ll see and when. Taking guidance from AOPA and EAA, two aviation advocacy groups that are doing a great job staying on top of the ADS-B discussion, you’re advised to ‘wait a while’. Here’s what they say:

AOPA Position

“If implemented properly, ADS-B could be beneficial to general aviation, but at this time many hurdles exist that could prevent ADS-B from being either affordable or beneficial in the near term. AOPA is working closely with the FAA to ensure that, over the next 10 years, pilots can easily identify benefits of ADS-B and equip with affordable avionics, and not simply to comply with new rules.”

EAA Position

“It makes sense to migrate to new satellite-based technology based on ADS-B, which would replace existing transponders and encoders. But if the aircraft owner has to pay for it, pilots should also receive substantial safety and operational benefits. The price of the technology is likely to drop dramatically in the next decade as new units emerge and competition develops in the marketplace. However, the FAA should forward a plan to develop both ADS-B (in) and (out) standards, so the maximum amount of benefits to the pilot community can take place, incentivizing installation rather than mandating it.”

EAA recommends the following:

Don’t be an early adopter. With a 10-year compliance deadline, many technical and marketplace-driven advances likely will come that could drive down prices and improve features.

Stay up-to-date on the issue. This debate is far from over. Implementation rules can change, and EAA will continue to work with the FAA and industry groups to bring the potential benefits of ADS-B (in) to its members and all of general aviation.