AOPA is concerned with an FAA plan to require Part 135 operators who can no longer repair their Mode A or C transponders to upgrade to Mode S transponders beginning in March 2007.This seemingly benign mandate sends a mixed signal to aircraft operators, considering the FAA already is starting to eliminate Mode S traffic information service at 23 locations nationwide.
"The FAA is aggressively working on a plan to replace most radar systems with automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B)," said Randy Kenagy, AOPA senior director of advanced technology.
AOPA has opposed mandatory Mode S transponder equipage since the 1990s because aircraft owners would have to bear the cost of new avionics that provide no direct benefit to them.
"It makes more sense to allow Part 135 operators to delay any upgrade and plan for ADS-B technology, skipping Mode S transponders that probably will be phased out within a decade anyway," Kenagy said. "Unlike Mode S, ADS-B is a platform with real-world benefits for aircraft owners who install and connect it to a display because it provides free graphical Nexrad weather and robust traffic information."
ADS-B ground stations currently are in use in Alaska as part of Capstone and along the East Coast. AOPA has worked with the FAA for 10 years on alternatives to Mode S transponders, including ADS-B, which would result in benefits for general aviation users and efficiency and capacity improvements for ATC. Although ADS-B offers superior performance, the big question is the price of the avionics.
The FAA is working on detailed ADS-B implementation plans, which include rapidly installing ground stations nationwide beginning in 2007. The FAA could switch to ADS-B services within the next 10 to 15 years.
October 20, 2005