GA Groups Press Case for Lower-Cost ADS-B Gear

Photo: Chicagoland Aviation Flying

The leaders of 14 aviation organizations sent a dire warning to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, telling him in a joint letter to do something now to bring down the costs of ADS-B compliance or risk seeing a "significant reduction" in general aviation activity when the ADS-B Out mandate takes effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

Writing in the Jan. 23 letter that the costs of the mandate are too high for tens of thousands of GA aircraft owners, the groups urged the FAA to throw out the current ADS-B standards and start fresh with new rules that would allow owners to equip with less expensive avionics, possibly to include portable gear.

The groups included an example in their letter of an older GA airplane with a basic Mode C transponder and VFR GPS receiver, saying the cost to equip for the ADS-B mandate for such an aircraft would total $5,000 — broken out as $4,000 for an ADS-B Out/In unit with integrated WAAS GPS receiver and $1,000 for installation. Flying has gone on record with the proposal that the FAA allow a semi-portable or portable ADS-B Out solution that could be priced at less than $2,000 including installation costs.

The groups noted that uptake for ADS-B equipment has been sluggish to date, with only 8,800 GA aircraft in compliance as of Jan. 1, 2015. That number is unlikely to rise dramatically with GA aircraft owners holding out hope that a less expensive portable solution might be just around the corner.

The FAA also faces resistance from business aircraft operators and the airlines, which will have to spend far more money to comply with ADS-B on a per-airplane basis. The chief pilot of one corporate flight department we spoke with recently said his operation flat-out refuses to comply with the mandate, estimating the equipment and installation costs to tally a staggering $100,000 per airplane. He said many other flight departments are taking this approach as well, betting on action from Congress to address the situation before the 2020 mandate.

Meanwhile, the FAA appears reluctant to revise the ADS-B equipment standards, which went into effect five years ago and, in the agency's view, have given aircraft operators ample time to prepare. But with uncertainty on the rise, ADS-B equipage could slow to a near standstill, setting up a possible showdown with the FAA and angry aircraft owners nearer to, or even after, the 2020 mandate.

The letter to the FAA was signed by the leaders of AOPA, the Experimental Aircraft Association, the National Business Aviation Association, the National Air Transportation Association, the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association, the American Bonanza Society, the Antique Aircraft Association, Cardinal Flyers, Cessna Pilots Society, Citation Jet Pilots Owner Association, Classic Jet Aircraft Association, Commemorative Air Force, Helicopter Association International and the Seaplane Pilots Association.

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