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ADS-B requirement clarified for nonelectrical aircraft

Language differed from transponder rule

Editor's note: AOPA has clarified the airspace covered by the ADS-B Out exemption for nonelectrical aircraft.

A recently issued legal interpretation from the FAA’s Office of the Chief Counsel has clarified Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) requirements for operators of aircraft without electrical systems. The FAA has mandated ADS-B Out equipage after Jan. 1, 2020, for flight in airspace where a transponder is required today.

A Piper Cub is one example of an aircraft certificated without an electrical system.

In the regulations requiring the use of altitude-reporting transponders, 14 CFR 91.215(b)(3) and 91.215(b)(5) specify exemptions for “any aircraft which was not originally certificated with an engine-driven electrical system or which has not subsequently been certified with such a system installed, balloon, or glider.” However, 14 CFR 91.225(e)—which provides comparable exemptions to the ADS-B Out requirement—specifies “any aircraft that was not originally certificated with an electrical system, or that has not subsequently been certified with such a system installed, including balloons and gliders.” Its omission of the phrase “engine driven” has caused significant confusion among pilots and aircraft owners.

“The legal interpretation confirms that the same aircraft excluded from the transponder requirement are excluded from the ADS-B Out equipage requirement,” said Justin Barkowski, AOPA director of regulatory affairs. “That means aircraft subsequently equipped with batteries or an electric starter would not be required to equip for ADS-B Out.

“The concern was that the exception expanded the types of aircraft required to equip with ADS-B Out beyond those required to equip with a transponder,” Barkowski added. “AOPA has received several inquiries about what types of aircraft fall within this exception, and has been tracking this issue with the FAA for some time now. This is a favorable interpretation.”

The regulation 14 CFR 91.225(e) allows aircraft not certificated with an electrical system, including balloons and gliders, not equipped with ADS-B Out to operate within 30 nautical miles of a Class B primary airport—basically, within its Mode C veil—while remaining outside of any Class B or Class C airspace. These aircraft can operate as high as 17,999 feet msl except above Class B or Class C airspace; they also can operate beneath Class B and Class C airspace. Operationally the ADS-B Out rules mirror the transponder equipage requirements in 14 CFR 91.215. Equipping with a transponder now, and ADS-B Out by Jan. 1, 2020, allows for operations above Class B and C airspace.

The legal interpretation states that the FAA may make a technical amendment in the future to eliminate the discrepancy between 14 CFR 91.215 and 91.225.

Mike Collins
Mike Collins
Technical Editor
Mike Collins, AOPA technical editor and director of business development, died at age 59 on February 25, 2021. He was an integral part of the AOPA Media team for nearly 30 years, and held many key editorial roles at AOPA Pilot, Flight Training, and AOPA Online. He was a gifted writer, editor, photographer, audio storyteller, and videographer, and was an instrument-rated pilot and drone pilot.
Topics: Advocacy, Aircraft Regulation, NextGen

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