NextGen Now: Choosing the Right ADS-B System

NextGen Now: Choosing the Right ADS-B System

With the 2020 mandate for ADS-B Out equipment for aircraft flying in controlled airspace rapidly approaching — and the FAA offering a $500 equipment rebate to the first 20,000 aircraft owners to get in line — now is a great time to commit to a unit to avoid the mad rush before the compliance deadline. But there is a long list of offerings on the market, and choosing one product over another can be difficult.

If you know that you won’t ever fly in Class A airspace (FL 180 and above) or internationally, you can stick with a simpler universal access transceiver (UAT). If you don’t have a WAAS GPS system to provide position information, the unit will have to include it, which most systems sold today do. There is a long list of ADS-B systems on the market, ranging in price from around $2,000 to $6,000. For Class A and international flights, you will need a Mode C transponder with extended squitter (ES) capability.

Most of the more affordable systems also include ADS-B In capabilities, allowing you to display traffic and weather on a variety of panel-mount and portable displays.

If you’re looking for a full ADS-B solution with a dedicated display, you can have that too. The cost will be higher, but considering how often you’ll be referencing ADS-B-supplied data, it’s a sound investment.

When trying to decide which system fits best into your budget, you should also consider the additional cost of antennas and installation. You may want to schedule time to discuss your options with an installation shop to make sure that you’re not in for any nasty surprises when you get the final bill.

Here’s a look at some of the more popular ADS-B equipment options:

Garmin GTX 345

The GTX 345 is the ADS-B unit many pilots flying with Garmin cockpit equipment have been waiting for. It is a 1090ES Mode S transponder that provides ADS-B Out compliance while also receiving weather information on the 978 MHz UAT frequency, plus traffic information over both the ADS-B datalink frequencies. An integral WAAS GPS receiver that meets the ADS-B Out position-source requirements is available as an option.

What makes the GTX 345 so appealing is that it can display ADS-B traffic and weather on a long list of current and legacy Garmin displays, including the G1000 avionics system. This data can also be shared wirelessly over Bluetooth with tablets running the Garmin Pilot or ForeFlight Mobile apps. The GTX 345 is also available as a remote-mount unit, in which case it can be controlled by the G1000 system or a GTN 650/750 navigator.

The GTX 345 ADS-B In/Out transponder carries a list price of $5,795 with the optional WAAS GPS receiver and $4,995 without it. An ADS-B Out-only version, called the GTX 335, is priced at $3,795 with the WAAS GPS receiver and $2,995 without. Both the panel- and remote-mount versions are priced the same.

L-3’s complete ADS-B solution offers a slew of additional features. L-3

L-3 NGT-9000 Lynx

L-3 Avionics launched its NGT-9000 Lynx touchscreen transponder and ADS-B solution in 2015. In addition to offering ADS-B In and Out capabilities, the unit includes the required WAAS GPS, serving as a complete ADS-B solution. It also offers a slew of additional features.

The touchscreen is easy to work with. To enter a transponder code, you simply touch the code itself and a keyboard comes up. With a light touch of the on-screen numbers, you can enter your transponder code. If you want to squawk VFR, there is a dedicated key for that so you don’t have to manually enter 1200. Using the touchscreen in flight, even in moderate turbulence, is no problem thanks to the large buttons.

Scrolling between screens is done with a simple swipe to the left or the right. Scrolling requires a bit more pressure than with an iPhone or iPad — a good thing. Along with your own ship position, you can see winds aloft, airspace and TFRs on the screen. Metars are also accessible by entering an airport code. Commonly used airports can be saved for quick access.

The Lynx talks to a long list of panel-mount avionics systems, so you can display traffic and TFRs on your moving map as well. The unit also communicates with several iPad apps, including ForeFlight, WingX and SkyRadar.

The level of information displayed depends on the unit. There are four different NGT-9000s to choose from, with prices currently ranging from $5,490 to $8,605 plus installation.

L-3 also offers more affordable, remotely mounted ADS-B solutions ranging from $2,300 to $3,795.

Avidyne’s AXP340 is a slide-in replacement for several BendixKing transponders. Avidyne

Avidyne AXP340

Avidyne’s AXP340 is a panel-mount Mode S 1090 MHz datalink transponder with ES capability. It’s a slide-in replacement for BendixKing KT76A/KT76C/KT78A transponders, offering a relatively painless upgrade path from an existing Mode A or C transponder to Mode S, as well as additional functionalities, like a direct-entry numeric keypad, pressure-altitude and GPS latitude-and-longitude readouts, flight ID entry, one-touch VFR code entry, a stopwatch timer, flight timer and altitude alerter. Some additional wiring and tray replacement are required to add ADS-B functionality.

If you lack the room in your panel to add an AXP340, Avidyne also offers a remote-mount alternative, the AXP322, which is controlled by an existing IFD540 or IFD440 navigator.

The AXP340 is $3,999, which includes the tray and kit but not the antenna. The AXP322, meanwhile, sells for a list price of $5,449.

FreeFlight’s modular concept allows you to purchase only the parts you need. FreeFlight

FreeFlight Rangr

FreeFlight offers several ADS-B solutions for everything from light-sport aircraft to commercial airliners. Rather than offering a product that provides all ADS-B needs, FreeFlight's modular concept allows you to purchase only the parts and pieces that you require within the Rangr product line.

The Rangr units are remotely mounted and compatible with a variety of panel-mount avionics systems. If you are looking for compliance below FL 180 and inside the United States, you can get a simple box with WAAS GPS and ADS-B Out capabilities for $2,995. If you want the benefits of ADS-B In, the complete unit will cost you $3,695.

Customers who wish to use Class A airspace and fly internationally can purchase FreeFlight’s Rangr 1090ES transponder. The Rangr 1090ES also provides ADS-B Out capability but not the required WAAS GPS, which many panels already have installed. FreeFlight also offers stand-alone WAAS GPS products, along with a separate, remotely mounted ADS-B In-only box.

NavWorx offers a remotely mounted box that connects to other avionics packages. NavWorx

NavWorx ADS600-B

Like most ADS-B units on the market, the NavWorx ADS600-B is designed for certified avionics and is a simple UAT; hence, it lacks a dedicated display. The unit does, however, also have an internal WAAS GPS and provides a complete solution to comply with the ADS-B mandate. It is a remotely mounted box that connects to other avionics packages.

The unit talks to many commonly installed avionics systems in general aviation airplanes, such as Garmin’s G1000 and GNS 430/530, and Aspen’s Evolution displays. It is also compatible with some portable GPS systems as well as Hilton Software’s WingX Pro7 and iFly GPS apps for tablets. There are, however, systems that are still not compatible. If you have upgraded your panel to Garmin’s GTN 650/750 or Avidyne’s IFD series, for example, or if you fly with ForeFlight’s iPad app, you are out of luck. But before you write off the unit as incompatible, check in with NavWorx. Additions may have been made to the list of compatible units.

Priced at $1,999, the NavWorx ADS600-B is a very economical ADS-B offering. It is certified for installation in a long list of single-engine and light-twin airplanes. NavWorx also has low-cost ADS-B solutions for light-sport aircraft such as the ADS600-EXP, which lists for $1,399.

Despite its low cost, the ADS600-B provides ADS-B In and Out capabilities and connects to virtually any existing Mode C transponder. A separate Wi-Fi module allows for ADS-B In to be displayed on a variety of platforms. The ADS-B In unit receives ADS-B, ADS-R, TIS-B traffic and FIS-B weather.

The Appareo Stratus ESG is a low-cost, all-in-one ADS-B solution. Appareo

Appareo Stratus ESG

Like many other ADS-B equipment options to hit the market in the last couple of years, Appareo’s Stratus ESG is truly an all-in-one box that will allow you to meet the ADS-B equipment mandate for a price that’s in line with other low-cost options.

The unit incorporates a 1090ES transponder and certified WAAS GPS receiver in a form factor designed to slot right into the spot in the panel where your old transponder lived.

All that’s required for the installation is to mount the unit in the panel and install the GPS antenna. You can reuse the existing transponder antenna and altitude encoder.

Price for the Stratus ESG transponder is $2,995, including the GPS antenna.

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ADS-B Portables

While portable ADS-B units such as the Garmin GDL 39, Appareo Stratus 2S and Dual XGPS190 won't allow you to meet the 2020 ADS-B mandate, these units do provide the weather and traffic features that are so worth having access to in flight. You can opt for an inexpensive ADS-B Out unit installed in the airplane to meet the mandate, or perhaps you don't fly in the airspace that requires the equipment to be installed at all. But a low-cost portable unit allows you to access the good stuff on your iPad.

The GDL 39 is a small, unobtrusive antenna that works even when hidden underneath a seat. It can be used continuously with a power adapter, and there is also an external battery available for $99.99.

In addition to Garmin’s Pilot app, the GDL 39 can feed the ADS-B In data to a long list of Garmin products, such as the G3X, aera 500, 660 and 795/796, and GPSMap 396, 495/496 and 695/696.

The price for the GDL 39 is $639. Garmin also offers a 3-D version of the GDL 39, which adds attitude and synthetic-vision capabilities, for $849.

Other terrific portable ADS-B In units include the Appareo Stratus 2S unit, which works with ForeFlight’s Mobile EFB app and sells for $899, and the Dual XGPS170 receiver, which costs $849 and talks to a variety of mobile apps, including WingX Pro7, FltPlan Go and AvNav EFB.


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