When the FAA launched its ADS-B program a decade ago, there was a lot of concern over the potential costs of what would be mandatory equipage on a par with the huge costs incurred by required installation of transponders decades ago. While these concerns have not been answered, the FAA smartly worked what it has informally called a “carrot” into the ADS-B equation by making free weather and traffic services available to aircraft with the proper ADS-B equipment, a benefit that could save aircraft owners and operators a great deal of expense over time.
Today, the promise of the widespread availability of such free services is closer than ever to coming true, as the FAA has announced the availability of ADS-B services in more than 50 areas around the country, from Miami to Merced and Pittsburgh to Palm Springs. With the launch of the services, pilots of aircraft equipped with 978 MHz Universal Access Transceiver (UAT) can get both FIS-B free weather service and TIS-B traffic information service. Aircraft with 1090ES will be able to receive just the traffic information. The advisory-only weather information features such products as metars and tafs, Nexrad, sigmets and airmets, pireps, notams, and TFRs. The services are already available, a fact the FAA hopes will help accelerate the rate at which owners install the new equipment in their airplanes — in order to operate in most airspace, that is — a requirement they have until 2020 to meet.