Cost To Equip for ADS-B Expected To Be Substantial

The FAA guidelines for required ADS-B equipment were released late last week, and though there are no real surprises for avionics manufacturers, general aviation advocates have little to cheer about. One of the sections of the report is even titled, "General Aviation: High Equipage Costs With Little Benefit." Cost to equip the GA fleet is estimated between $1.2 billion and $4.5 billion from 2012 to 2035, with only $200 million in operational cost savings expected. So far, most of the research has focused on the 'Out' portion of ADS-B — that is, the requirements for equipment to broadcast an aircraft's position, altitude, course and other flight data. The requirements announced Thursday reveal that ADS-B Out will be required to operate within Class A, B and C airspace, and above 10,000 feet over all the 48 contiguous states. But without the 'In' portion of the technology, ADS-B will act as the equivalent of an expanded transponder. The enhanced technology required — the so-called "extended squitter" — adds about $1,000 to the cost of a Garmin 330 transponder. To add ADS-B 'In' capability, aircraft operators would need to install a Garmin GTS820 at a cost of approximately $20,000. Further development of ADS-B "In" configuration is anticipated in later meetings. On the ADS-B 'Out' requirements, the FAA said it tried to minimize the cost to GA by eliminating a proposed need for antenna diversity. That element of ADS-B is required in Europe, and adds approximately $5,000 to the cost to re-equip an aircraft, according to Garmin. The agency also expects ADS-B will offer expanded services, including more low-altitude coverage; radar-like ATC services where radar does not currently cover; automated closing of flight plans; better search and rescue capability; and more "tailored" flight service functionality. A proposal to limit the ADS-B requirement to Class A and B airspace was considered, but in the end, the FAA said, "Failure to equip all aircraft would greatly reduce the system's benefits."

Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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