Final ADS-B Rule:
Where Are the Pilot Benefits?
AVIATION IS FULL OF ACRONYMS, and a new acronym has
joined the lingo: ADS-B (automatic dependent surveillance—
broadcast). It is becoming an emphasis for EAA’s work with the
FAA and industry in the coming years.
The FAA’s ADS-B final rule will affect pilots who fly in Class
A, B, or C airspace. By the year 2020, any aircraft operating
within that airspace must have a compliant ADS-B device in the
cockpit. ADS-B uses GPS signals along with aircraft avionics
to transmit an aircraft’s location to ground receivers. The
ground receivers then transmit that
information to air traffic controllers’
screens, ADS-B (out). As originally
envisioned, the system would also
display the same information to
aircraft equipped with ADS-B avionics,
However, the FAA’s rule does not
eliminate transponders when ADS-B
is installed in an aircraft. They’ll still
be required, potentially forcing pilots
to maintain both systems. And the
ADS-B system, as proposed in the
FAA mandate, would not offer any
additional benefits to pilots.
EAA has long favored a satellite-based tracking system, provided that
it would benefit aircraft operators as
well as the national airspace system.
Unfortunately, the FAA has only
mandated what’s called ADS-B (out),
which sends tracking information to
the air traffic system.
EAA has long held that the benefit
to pilots would be from systems that
allow us to receive traffic, weather,
and safety information in the cockpit ADS-B (in). Without
that element, the new mandate directly serves only FAA air
“What this new rule does is shift the cost of aircraft
tracking from the government’s mammoth ground-based
radar systems to the cockpit and the individual pilot,” said
Doug Macnair, EAA’s vice president of government relations.
“It makes sense to migrate to new satellite-based technology
ADS-B helps increase situational awareness.
and encoders. But if the aircraft owner has to pay for it,
pilots should also receive substantial safety and operational
There’s another catch to the mandate: Right now there
is no certified ADS-B unit available on the market. Rough
estimates for the technology at today’s costs are about $8,000
“Unlike GPS units, which rely on satellite technology to
bring positional information into the cockpit, ADS-B also sends
information to the air traffic system.
That means all systems must be
compliant with ground- and aircraft-
based receivers, so FAA certification
would be needed similar to today’s
transponders and encoders,” Macnair
said. “The price of the technology
is likely to drop dramatically in the
next decade as new units emerge
and competition develops in the
marketplace. However, the FAA
should forward a plan to develop both
ADS-B (in) and (out) standards, so
the maximum amount of benefits to
the pilot community can take place,
incentivizing installation rather than
What does this mean in the
short term for GA pilots? Probably
not a great deal, given the 10-year
implementation period. EAA
recommends the following:
Don’t be an early adopter. With a
Stay up-to-date on the issue. This debate is far from over.
10-year compliance deadline, many
technical and marketplace-driven
advances likely will come that could
drive down prices and improve features.
Implementation rules can change, and EAA will continue to
work with the FAA and industry groups to bring the potential
benefits of ADS-B (in) to its members and all of general aviation.
ADS-B will serve as the backbone of what’s often called
“NextGen” for air traffic control. But that’s only possible if the
system provides benefits for everyone involved, especially the
pilots who must bear the cost of the technology.