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ADS-B installations: Plan aheadADS-B installations: Plan ahead

The last step in most Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast upgrade strategies is installation, but it’s an important consideration that should be evaluated up front. Even upgrading a Garmin GTX330 to a 330ES requires some degree of wiring, testing, etc. With most avionics shops booking work more than six months in advance, now is the time to plan your installation. There are many ADS-B hardware options to consider, including Garmin’s GTX 330ES/335/345, L3’s Lynx-series, FreeFlight Systems’ RANGR series, Trig Avionics’ TT31, Bendix/King’s KT 74, and Appareo’s Stratus ESG transponder.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Simon.

Chances are that your upgrade will involve removing the complete aircraft interior, floorboards, gaining access to the rear of the panel, etc. This takes time and costs money. So, think carefully about what upgrades you may want within the next three to five years. Installation costs for some avionics equal the cost of the hardware itself. So, you can get a significant savings based on efficiently upgrading your avionics at the same time your ADS-B system is installed. In addition, many owners will be scrambling to meet the 2020 deadline as it approaches. As the backlog of work increases at avionics shops across the United States, don’t be surprised to see installation costs rise as well.

This is where your display strategy comes into play. Mapping out the display capabilities for every piece of avionics in your panel is important in determining how you will use your new avionics. It may be that you will display traffic in the old format on an aging MFD, while wiring to display full ADS-B traffic on your PFD. Many owners who have dual Garmin 530/430 installations use the 430 primarily for a dedicated display of traffic. That may not be the way you will use your “panel of the future.”

An interesting development regarding ADS-B installations came in March 2016 in the form an FAA memo. The memo clarified the requirements for installations of ADS-B equipment, most importantly making it clearly legal for any A&P/IA to complete certain ADS-B installations. This is a significant development, considering the number of aircraft yet to be equipped with only 36 months remaining until the 2020 deadline. It is also interesting to note that builders of experimental aircraft also can install ADS-B equipment themselves. L3 Aviation Products has jumped into this market, allowing builders to purchase ADS-B systems directly from L3.

Another item to consider is pre-wiring for the future. If you are installing an ADS-B receiver and plan to add a PFD or MFD in the future, you might as well ask the avionics shop to pre-wire the data output from the receiver (often in the tail of the aircraft) up to the panel (coiled, labeled, and secured). That may be one less time that the complete interior has to come out of the aircraft. The same is true for circuit breakers, custom panel cutting, etc. Wherever possible, do it once.

Consider other details as well. Would you like a simple transponder antenna or a slick blade-style antenna for your new ADS-B system? This is also an excellent time to consider adding a USB power port, or at least a “cigarette lighter” socket to a convenient location in the cockpit to provide power for tablet and phone charging.The list goes on.

The FAA currently has a rebate program in place for new ADS-B installations.You need to register for the program and follow the qualification rules carefully to make sure you will get the rebate, but it’s a good way to save $500 on your ADS-B upgrade.

Finally, every ADS-B system installation should include a test flight. FAA Advisory Circular 20-165B details guidance for the installation and testing of ADS-B systems. Additionally, the FAA’s online Public ADS-B Performance Report Request tool can help aircraft owners, operators, and avionics businesses work through validating the ADS-B Out equipment’s performance. If you’re looking for more information, this is an excellent place to start. Happy flying!

Jeff Simon

Jeff Simon

Jeff Simon is an A&P mechanic, pilot, and aircraft owner. He has spent the last 14 years promoting owner-assisted aircraft maintenance as a columnist for several major aviation publications and through his how-to DVD series: The Educated Owner. Jeff is also the creator of SocialFlight, the free mobile app and website that maps over 20,000 aviation events, $100 hamburgers, and educational aviation videos. Free apps available for iPhone, iPad and Android, and on the Web at www.SocialFlight.com.
Topics: ADSB, Ownership
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