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Flying under ADS-B rules

Unequipped aircraft may require extra steps

Editor's note: This story was updated with the ADAPT link once the tool was pushed live December 31.

For aircraft not equipped with ADS-B Out, flying in certain U.S. airspace will change beginning at 0001 local on Thursday, January 2—which is when the FAA’s long-discussed ADS-B Out mandate takes effect.

This is the airspace, defined by FAR 91.225, where ADS-B Out is required beginning at 0001 local Jan. 2. Operators of aircraft not equipped with ADS-B Out must obtain an authorization to access this airspace. Graphic courtesy of the FAA.

In the continental United States, the equipment will be required to operate in the ADS-B rule airspace defined by FAR 91.225, which encompasses:

  • Class A, B, and C airspace;
  • Class E airspace at or above 10,000 feet msl, excluding airspace at and below 2,500 feet agl;
  • Within 30 nautical miles of a Class B primary airport (the Mode C veil);
  • Above the ceiling and within the lateral boundaries of Class B or Class C airspace up to 10,000 feet;
  • Class E airspace over the Gulf of Mexico, at and above 3,000 feet msl, within 12 nm of the U.S. coast.

Except for the airspace over the Gulf this is the same airspace where a transponder is required today.

If you’re not equipped with ADS-B Out, you’re not necessarily shut out of the airspace—but you’ll have some extra work to do.

The FAA developed an automation capability to manage ATC authorization requests, the ADS-B Deviation Authorization Preflight Tool (ADAPT). The rules require that you request an airspace authorization from the FAA website at least one hour but not more than 24 hours in advance of your flight. Don’t call the ATC facility to ask, and don’t request access from a controller over the radio—the answer will be “no.” Only if your ADS-B Out hardware fails in flight will controllers be able to issue an airspace authorization to an airborne aircraft, said Rune Duke, AOPA senior director of airspace, air traffic, and aviation security.

An operational transponder is required, he added, and aircraft without engine-driven electrical systems that don’t have transponders also are exempt from some of the ADS-B required airspace, but not all.

ADAPT went live on December 31. Pilots can familiarize themselves with it through a video the FAA has posted online. In addition, AOPA has produced a comprehensive ADAPT Fact Sheet that includes step-by-step instructions for completing the process.

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: ADS-B, Avionics

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