ADS-B tools return to service

Outage affected operations for nearly 10 days

Editor's note: This story was updated November 19 with new information from the FAA.

As a set of related tools used by many pilots to confirm ADS-B navigation performance prior to flight, to request permission to fly without meeting relevant performance requirements, and to protect the privacy of airspace users were restored November 19 following an outage that began November 9.

An FAA website used to verify ADS-B performance, safeguard user privacy, and request deviation authorization was restored November 19, more than a week after being disabled by the agency due to cybersecurity concerns. Photo by Chris Rose.

The FAA issued a notam (FDC 1/5573) November 9 advising the ADS-B Service Availability Prediction Tool is out of service, and referring to Advisory Circular 90-114B for preflight guidance. The SAPT online portal encompasses a suite of tools that allow pilots to request authorization to deviate from ADS-B performance requirements; submit requests for ADS-B performance reports; and request a private ICAO address (PIA) to be displayed by public aircraft tracking services, rather than information identifying the aircraft’s owner and other details.

AOPA was first briefed on the situation November 10, though it remained unclear for several days when the system's functions would be restored. Members were advised that the system had been taken offline due to cybersecurity concerns, and directed to an email workaround that covered some but not all of the system's functions. FAA staff advised, in an email sent at 10:30 a.m. November 19, that all services had been restored.

While the outage had potential to disrupt routine operations, it was not immediately clear whether any operators had to change flight plans. The advisory circular referenced in the November 9 notam, published December 30, 2019, states that pilots may continue to operate without using the SAPT tool that might otherwise be required:

“Operators who use SAPT as their preflight prediction tool will not need to conduct a preflight prediction for the duration of the outage,” the circular states. “Additionally, any flight plans submitted to ATC with a proposed departure time within 90 minutes of SAPT return to service do not require a subsequent preflight analysis. When there is a SAPT outage and an operation falls below the performance requirements, provided the operator has taken the appropriate preflight actions with regard to relying upon SAPT, the FAA will not consider these events to constitute a violation, as such application of the regulation would impose standard of conduct wholly outside the operator’s control. For operators who have been notified by the FAA of consistent and repeated ADS-B Out performance issues, the FAA cautions that operating during a SAPT outage without first redressing the identified non-performance issue will be considered a continuation of existing noncompliance of the performance requirements.“

ADS-B Out transmission became mandatory in certain airspace January 1, 2020. Thousands of ADS-B-equipped aircraft did not meet FAA navigation performance standards in the first months following the mandate, and the system that is now offline remains a key resource for many pilots. AOPA has additional ADS-B resources and information available online.

Jim Moore

Jim Moore

Managing Editor-Digital Media
Digital Media Managing Editor Jim Moore joined AOPA in 2011 and is an instrument-rated private pilot, as well as a certificated remote pilot, who enjoys competition aerobatics and flying drones.
Topics: FAA Information and Services, Notams, ADS-B

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