September 2011 Issue

The ADS-B Mess

ADS-B components aren’t widely available, but the ground stations will be operating in a couple of years and airborne equipment required soon afterward.

For the time being, a Mode C transponder is your key to regularly accessing Class A, Class B, TFR and ADIZ airspace. Under most circumstances, losing altitude squawk capability means ATC isn’t going to let you into those places, although you can continue flying elsewhere. That’s one reason many operators have installed a second, back-up Mode C transponder, in case the primary box fails. But that Mode C transponder is destined to be supplemented by—maybe replaced by—the FAA’s new air-traffic surveillance system, ADS-B, or automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast. As plans currently stand, we’ll all need this technology installed in our aircraft to access various airspace types by 2020, when the FAA’s final rule mandates the latest and greatest ATC system, NextGen, is implemented. Putting aside the new system’s relative merits and implementation timetable, the time will come when at least ADS-B Out equipment will be required for a lot of places we want to go.

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