As of today, fewer than 1,000 Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) Out rebate reservations remain available from the FAA. Because aircraft owners are reserving rebates at an average rate of 60 to 100 per day, the available rebates could be exhausted in two weeks—or sooner. Any aircraft owner who wants to claim a rebate and has not yet done so should make a reservation now.
ADS-B uses GPS 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 for flights after Jan. 1, 2020, in airspace where a transponder is required today. To help encourage equipage, the FAA launched a rebate program Sept. 19, 2016, and when it expired 12 months later, only about 10,200 of 20,000 available rebates had been claimed. The current program opened Oct. 12, 2018, in an effort to award the 9,792 remaining rebates. It follows the same rules and procedures and is available to owners of fixed-wing, single-engine piston aircraft first registered before Jan. 1, 2016. Twins, helicopters, and turbine-powered airplanes are not eligible—but experimental and light sport aircraft are, if TSOed hardware is installed.
Pilots who fly—especially under instrument flight rules—to airports near ADS-B airspace should be particularly concerned about equipping, said Rune Duke, AOPA senior director of government affairs for airspace, air traffic, and aviation security. Vectors assigned by air traffic control, or published instrument approaches, could force nonequipped aircraft into ADS-B airspace—and the rules do not provide a “get out of jail free” card in such scenarios.
“It is clear talking to folks here in Anchorage that pilots didn’t realize Merrill Field IFR ops will require ADS-B,” said Duke, who was in Alaska for the Alaska Airmen Association’s 2019 Great Alaska Aviation Gathering. Merrill Field’s only IFR approach, the RNAV (GPS)-A, passes through Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport’s Class C airspace.
To make a reservation, go to the FAA website. You must select an installation date no more than 90 days in the future—we recommend selecting the maximum 90 days, to provide the most options in case of complications. The site will ask you to select the ADS-B equipment you plan to install, but this is not binding—you can install any TSOed equipment, regardless of what you indicate during the reservation process. When the installation date passes, the owner has 60 days to finish the installation and successfully complete a performance validation flight; selecting the latest available “installation date” affords a total of 150 days to complete the process.
Validation requires flying for at least 30 minutes in 14 CFR 91.225 rule airspace. For most of us, this means within or above Class C airspace; within the 30-nm Mode C veil around a Class B primary airport; or above 10,000 feet msl. (In Alaska, Guam, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico, flying above 10,000 feet msl and within FAA ADS-B ground station coverage meets the rebate requirement.)
Here are some tips for a successful validation flight:
Duke said aircraft owners pursuing rebates should understand and follow the time limits set forth in the rebate rules. “The FAA is limiting the number of extensions they are approving, and only under limited circumstances,” he said. “If the rebate expires without being claimed, the owner will need to apply for a new rebate, but the risk is none will be left.”
Aircraft not equipped with operational ADS-B Out can request deviations from 14 CFR 91.225, for limited access to ADS-B rule airspace. An authorization must be requested at least one hour in advance, through a website that the FAA is now developing. Controllers cannot grant authorizations to unequipped aircraft over the radio or by telephone. However, if ADS-B Out equipment fails in flight, controllers will be able to issue an airspace authorization to an airborne aircraft.