ADS-B uses satellites instead of ground-based radar to determine aircraft location, and is a key technology behind the FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation System. The FAA has mandated ADS-B Out equipage beginning January 1, 2020, for operations in airspace where a transponder is required today—in Class A; in and above all 30-nautical-mile Mode C veils surrounding Class B; in and above Class C; and Class E airspace at and above 10,000 feet msl, excluding airspace at and below 2,500 feet agl, as well as at and above 3,000 feet msl over the Gulf of Mexico from the U.S. coastline out to 12 nm.
As of November 15, 2016—eight weeks after the rebate became available—3,341 aircraft owners had reserved a $500 ADS-B rebate from the FAA. Of those reservations, 1,105 installations had been validated, and checks were being processed for 389 aircraft owners who had completed the claim process. The FAA is offering the ADS-B rebate for one year or until 20,000 rebates have been claimed. More information is available online (www.faa.gov/go/rebate).
These early ADS-B adopters appreciate the situational awareness that in-cockpit traffic displays provide.
David Shepherd of Pontiac, Michigan, was flying his 1980 Piper PA–32 Saratoga along the Chicago lakefront when he saw on his ADS-B traffic display another aircraft four miles ahead, opposite direction, at the same altitude. “I watched the screen for about five seconds, then turned west to avoid a collision. A few seconds later the controller said, ‘Aircraft 12 o’clock, opposite direction, indicated altitude 2,500 feet, turn west.’ I responded, ‘I already did.’
“I love ADS-B In and Out, and my partner in the plane now thanks me for talking him into getting it,” Shepherd said. “As my instructor frequently asks, ‘How much is your life worth?’”
“I pick up traffic way before I can visually pick it out,” said Gary Holden, who flies his Beech Bonanza V35 in busy Los Angeles-area airspace. “The ADS-B is really a great safety device.” He also appreciates the graphical depiction of temporary flight restrictions.
John Hodgson of Atlanta installed ADS-B while adding an autopilot to his 1967 Cessna 185E. “My surprise, and delight, was the first audible call-out of traffic by the Garmin 345 over my headset of ‘Traffic, 1 o’clock, 1,000 feet.’ I didn’t realize this was part of the bargain,” Hodgson said. “It’s a potential lifesaver—worth every dollar I put in the upgrade.”
Aircraft owners also reported improved air traffic surveillance and services. Rod Combellick of Fairbanks, Alaska, installed an Appareo Stratus ESG transponder in his Cessna 177B Cardinal. “The immediate benefits were increased range of transponder effectiveness, elimination of periodic ATC calls of ‘radar signal lost’ within terminal radar service areas, and seemingly quicker ATC callbacks of ‘radar contact,’” he said.
“A completely unexpected benefit of equipping with a modern ADS-B transponder has been the way that I’m now treated by ATC. They easily grant direct-to clearances—even in busy, over-water international airspace,” said Antonio Lotero, who bases his Piper Seneca III in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. He is routinely cleared direct to initial approach fixes, which almost never happened with his old Mode C transponder.
Some owners reported benefits from both ADS-B traffic and weather on the same flight. Fred Bursch of Rapid City, South Dakota, installed ADS-B as part of an avionics upgrade to his Piper Seneca III. He was flying home from Wyoming, using ADS-B radar images to circumnavigate scattered late-afternoon thunderstorms. “All of a sudden, I get a flashing yellow screen on all of the avionics and a ‘traffic alert’ audible command in my headset,” he said. A Bonanza passed overhead at 10,000 feet, an incorrect altitude for its direction of flight.
Early rebate applicants have revealed some misunderstandings about the process. Rebate rules require aircraft owners to fly in FAR 91.225 rule airspace—where ADS-B Out will be required in January 2020—for at least 30 minutes during their ADS-B validation flights.
ADS-B performance can be verified using the FAA’s online Public ADS-B Performance Request webpage (https://adsbperformance.faa.gov/PAPRRequest.aspx). If the aircraft passes the evaluation—no parameters are highlighted in red—and the rebate requirements, the Emailed report will also include a GA Incentive Rebate Status (GAIRS) code. This code, and the rebate reservation code obtained at the beginning of the FAA rebate process, must be submitted online to claim the rebate.
AOPA has been involved in the ADS-B rebate effort from the beginning, collaborating with the FAA, Aircraft Electronics Association, and General Aviation Manufacturers Association to make the program beneficial to aircraft owners. “The mandate will not slip,” said Rune Duke, AOPA director of airspace and air traffic. “Pilots should equip ahead of 2020 to ensure their aircraft retains access to the airspace it has access to today.”
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