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Operators Encouraged to Plan Ahead for Upcoming ADS-B Mandates

For more information on ADS-B, see also the NBAA On-Demand Education webinar titled Using ADS-B for Safety and Efficiency.

The business aviation community is counting down with a mixture of anticipation and unease towards the Federal Aviation Administration’s January 2020 mandate for aircraft to be equipped with automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast “out” (ADS-B Out) systems. While that date may seem to be in the distant future, that deadline will almost certainly come sooner than you think if your operation hasn’t determined how it will meet this requirement.

The FAA has determined that by January 1, 2020, any aircraft operating in Class B or Class C airspace, or above 10,000 feet MSL, will be required to have ADS-B Out equipment onboard. A fundamental part of the agency’s planned “NextGen” air traffic control system, ADS-B Out is projected to eventually supersede the use of primary radar systems for tracking aircraft movements.

If you operate in Europe, the requirement comes even sooner. Eurocontrol requires that any new aircraft above 12,500 lbs. gross weight, or with a maximum cruise speed exceeding 250 knots true airspeed, must be equipped with ADS-B Out by January 8, 2015. Older aircraft meeting those criteria must be retrofitted with ADS-B Out systems by December 7, 2017. The ADS-B requirement may be met by any aircraft having FANS 1/A before the January 2015 date and is good for the life of the airframe.

ADS-B Out functions exactly as its name implies. Utilizing onboard navigational data broadcast through the aircraft’s transponder, ADS-B Out automatically broadcasts an aircraft’s identifying information, as well as position and ground speed based on GPS data, to ground-based relay stations at a rate of one reading per second. This information is then transmitted to the appropriate air traffic control facilities, as well as to appropriately equipped aircraft in the area.

The speed and precision offered by GPS-linked position reporting benefits Air Traffic Control (ATC) in determining an aircraft’s location and capabilities, allowing for improved handling of traffic, particularly in busy sectors. The technology may also be scaled down for ground operations; due to the accuracy and reliability of this data, airports may also opt to equip ground vehicles with ADS-B Out capabilities to reduce ramp accidents and prevent runway incursions.

Two Systems Available to U.S. Operators

Two types of equipment may be used to comply with the ADS-B Out requirement, though one will see substantially greater use than the other. Most business aviation operators, and anyone operating in the flight levels above 17,999 feet, will be required to utilize a transponder with 1090 extended squitter (1090ES) capability. The “extended” part of that name refers to the extra data transmitted on the same frequencies already used by Mode-S transponders throughout the world and is an International Civil Aviation Organization standard.

The second option for compliance with ADS-B Out in the United States is intended for smaller general aviation aircraft operating below 18,000 feet. Instead of utilizing existing Mode-S transponder frequencies, a universal access transceiver (UAT) uses a dedicated 978 MHz frequency reserved for ADS-B transmissions in the U.S. This may be provided through a UAT-equipped transponder, or a separate interface between in-cockpit systems and an existing transponder.

As you might expect with two different forms of similar technology – think Mac versus PC – 1090ES and UAT are not inherently compatible with each other. In order for both systems to be used safely within the same airspace, ground stations will have to re-transmit information on the opposite link so that all aircraft can be seen on cockpit traffic displays. This is known as ADS-R, for “rebroadcast.”

From a practical standpoint, most business aircraft operators have little choice about which system to use. 1090ES has already been adopted as the global inter-operability standard for ADS-B Out, while UAT is currently limited only to the United States.

However, operators shouldn’t dismiss fitting their aircraft with UAT if they operate at lower altitudes and don’t plan to leave the country, as UAT does offer much greater bandwidth over the 1090ES signal. This added benefit is important when considering in-cockpit uses for ADS-B “Out,” or ADS-B “In.”

Having an ADS-B In receiver and display on board enables pilots to see the same position information displayed on ground-based ATC screens, as well as in-cockpit weather and other advisories. This added level of information gives pilots greater ability to maintain “self-separation” with other aircraft; UAT was first deployed 11 years ago in Alaska’s Capstone program for precisely this reason.

Opt “In,” or Stay “Out?”

ADS-B In is available with both 1090ES and UAT systems, and both technologies are compatible with traffic information service-broadcast (TIS-B) information. TIS-B uses ground-based surveillance radar, while still available, to identify aircraft without ADS-B systems on board, and transmits that data to an in-cockpit traffic display.

Additionally, UAT also enables pilots to receive flight information services-broadcast (FIS-B) data, an additional advisory-level service unavailable to 1090ES users. An FIS-B transmission may include graphical weather displays in addition to text-based surface aviation weather observations (METARs), as well as notification of temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) and other notices to airmen (NOTAMs) that may then be displayed in the cockpit.

That said, 1090ES will represent the most cost-effective solution for many operators. Most transport category aircraft, including higher-end business jets and turboprops, are already equipped with systems offering most of the in-cockpit benefits of UAT. These include the Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) and in-cockpit weather displays, the latter utilizing satellite-based services like XM Weather that are similar to the capabilities offered by ADS-B.

Additionally, increasing equipage and use of data link systems onboard transport-category aircraft gives pilots the ability to receive in-cockpit weather and operational information similar to FIS-B, making UAT redundant. To comply with ADS-B Out mandates, these aircraft may only need to be equipped with a 1090ES transponder, as well as the necessary equipment to interface with onboard navigational systems; older avionics may need to be replaced with more modern equipment compatible with ADS-B. General aviation operators planning to utilize UAT must also install the necessary cockpit displays to benefit from TIS-B and FIS-B availability, potentially adding thousands of dollars to the cost.

No U.S. or international mandate to equip aircraft with ADS-B In capability exists at the moment, and if one does come to pass it will almost certainly come well past the January 2020 deadline for ADS-B Out. Pilots should research for themselves whether it’s worth the added cost to equip with ADS-B In, particularly if they operate primarily away from high traffic airspace and airports.

‘How Recent Is Your Equipment?’

Much of the equipment that will be required to comply with ADS-B is still in development, noted Matt Nelson, manager of satellite operations at Duncan Aviation in Lincoln, NB. That makes exact costs difficult to pinpoint, though operators of FAR Part 23 aircraft may expect to pay between $10,000 and $20,000 to start, regardless of whether they select a Mode S or UAT option. “That doesn’t include the cost for engineering and certification paths,” Nelson added. “It also gets interesting when talking about equipping with ADS-B In capabilities, as many Part 23 aircraft will require separate displays to show traffic and weather information.”

Part 25 operators should expect those costs to increase significantly. “You’re looking closer to a $100,000 upgrade to equip an older Lear 35 with diversity transponders and other new equipment, parts and labor,” Nelson noted. “That’s due to equipment price and certification costs, as well as the level of interface needed between the transponder and existing cockpit systems.”

“Adding 1090ES capability doesn’t make the Mode S transponder itself significantly more expensive,” added Chris Benich, Vice President, Aerospace Regulatory Affairs for Honeywell Inc. “The question driving your upgrade cost becomes, how recent is your equipment?”

With the deadline for compliance still some years off, many operators may be tempted to wait until closer to 2020 to shell out the money to equip for ADS-B. That’s particularly true for operators who expect to turn their fleets over prior to the deadline.

“History has already told us that people are going to wait until the last minute - the last second - to comply with mandates,” Nelson noted. “One incentive for early equipage is there will likely be equipment shortages at the deadline, and operators run the risk of not being able to operate their aircraft at the deadline if that equipment is not available.” NBAA’s Bob Lamond, director of air traffic services & infrastructure, said, “The FAA is also looking to create some operational incentives to equip early, but those remain to be seen.”

“It promises to be an interesting eight years ahead, as we move forward towards this rule,” Benich concluded. “It’s important for operators to communicate with avionics manufacturers to determine what they will need to comply with the mandate. It’s equally important for us to hear from pilots about potential ways they could benefit from the use of ADS-B.”

For More Information

Learn about and register for NBAA's webinar titled Using ADS-B for Safety and Efficiency, to be held live on Oct. 17, 2012, and later offered as a digital recording. Learn more about ADS-B on NBAA's CNS resource page at

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