Challenges abound with FAA’s ‘ADS-B Out’ mandate

May 27, 2010

adsbThe FAA on May 27 published its final rule mandating what owners will be required to have on board their aircraft in order to operate in the new satellite-based air traffic control system known as NextGen. By 2020, Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast Out (ADS-B Out) will be required equipment in all airspace that currently requires a transponder. According to AOPA, the ADS-B Out equipment that the rule requires will cost the individual general aviation aircraft owner thousands of dollars but only duplicates what already exists with today’s radio transponder. The association is conducting a detailed analysis of the rule to further understand its impact on GA.

“Since the 1990s, AOPA has worked with the FAA on the development of space-based navigation,” said Melissa Rudinger, AOPA senior vice president of government affairs. “The industry has always maintained that the migration to the new system must be benefits-driven. But the only real beneficiary of this new ADS-B Out mandate is the FAA.”

The new system will let ATC see each aircraft’s GPS-derived position on controllers’ screens, a function currently fulfilled by radio transponders. So ADS-B Out should be a replacement for transponders, but instead the FAA is requiring ADS-B Out and transponders, meaning pilots will have to pay for and maintain two systems in order to help ATC perform its primary function: safe separation of aircraft. The final rule does indicate that the FAA may, at some future date, consider whether transponders could eventually be removed.

Over the past two decades, GA aircraft owners have embraced satellite-based navigation and have collectively spent millions of dollars upgrading their systems. Eighty percent of the GA fleet is equipped with GPS units. Twenty percent has GPS Wide Area Augmentation System-enabled equipment, allowing them to take advantage of extremely precise satellite-based instrument approach procedures during inclement weather. And aircraft owners have upgraded without mandate because they recognized the inherent advantages satellite navigation has over traditional radio navigation.

“We are encouraged that the FAA has rejected the unrealistic five-year implementation plan that some have called for in favor of a 10-year timeframe,” said Rudinger. “That gives the FAA and industry a decade to work together to find low-cost solutions, such as permitting portable options to display available traffic and weather data information.”

AOPA remains committed to the transition to satellite-based navigation, but maintains that the transition must be benefits-driven—resulting in improvements in safety, efficiency, and increased access.

For more information about ADS-B, see the FAA fact sheet.

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