The Cost of ADS-B Compliance: You’re Looking at it Wrong

The benefits to complying with the FAA’s pending ADS-B mandate will easily outweigh the cost.

Any time you find yourself with a group of pilots, the conversation will inevitably turn to the FAA’s pending ADS-B mandate. And, yes, most of the comments are way too colorful to print here. Aircraft owners can be a surly bunch.

Anyway, after the first wave of FAA-bashing commentary, I try to put a more positive spin on things. Sure, having to comply is inconvenient and expensive: An entry-level ADS-B Out unit – the minimum for meeting the FAA’s requirements – will run around $4,000 to $6,000. High-end systems will cost even more.

But nobody said owning an airplane was an inexpensive proposition. ADS-B compliance is just like an annual – you just have to do it. Instead of putting off the inevitable, take a minute to consider the immediate benefits that come with early compliance. Even the basic ADS-B Out transmitter will give ATC and other equipped aircraft a much more accurate view of your aircraft’s current position and track. That’s good.

What’s better is to spend the extra money and upgrade to an ADS-B In transponder – with the capability to receive signals – which gets you even more benefits like free uplinked traffic, weather, METARS, AIRMETS, SIGMETS and other information. Think about it: How much are you spending on your subscription traffic and weather now? It’s not cheap.

But, with ADS-B In you can save that cost every month. Add it up over a couple of years and those savings will pay for the additional cost of an ADS-B In unit. You probably hadn’t looked at it that way before.

And if you’re looking for just a bit more justification to having ADS-B In, consider this: The ability to see real-time traffic is well worth the cost, especially in reduced visibility conditions or in congested airspace. Mix those two together and ADS-B In is a “must have.” Remember, a controller’s available to warn you about traffic, but small airplanes, especially those flying VFR are solely responsible for “seeing and avoiding.”

Being able to see the traffic right there on your primary panel display is the best and only real way to ensure maximum safety, separation and situational awareness. And who can put a price on safety?

Of course, real-time traffic is just one of the headline capabilities that manufacturers like Aspen, L3, Avidyne, BendixKing, FreeFlight, Garmin, Honeywell, Rockwell, Trig and others are putting in their new-generation ADS-B Out/In units. They’re really a lot of bang for your buck.

Speaking of bucks, if you own a fixed-wing, piston-engine single, the FAA is still offering a $500 rebate to help defer the cost of your ADS-B Out compliance. You can find all the information on their rebate website: www.faa.gov/nextgen.equipadsb/rebate/.

Unfortunately, there’s no bonus rebate if you decide to step up to ADS-B In, but even so, the added benefits and free traffic and weather services will more than make up for the added costs.


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