About the time this issue hits your mailbox, the industry will mark one year before the FAA will require ADS-B Out equipment to operate in airspace where a Mode C transponder is required today. The January 1, 2020, deadline was set in 2010, and it’s been fascinating to watch commercial, corporate, business and personal aircraft operators wrestle with the evolving market choices.
Over the 10 years since the ADS-B rule was made final, the typical cost of installing complying equipment—if you could even find any at first—has gone from roughly 10 AMUs (aviation maintenance unit, currently $1000) for certified personal aircraft to slightly more than one. Along the way, capabilities have improved, with cockpit connectivity and built-in display of ADS-B In’s traffic and weather information often driving both the decision to equip and the products installed.
According to panelists at a recent Miami, Fla., conference geared to the business jet community and reported by Aviation International News (AIN), not all of the in-service fleet is expected to be compliant by the deadline. (Full disclosure: I often perform freelance work for AIN, for which I am compensated.) In fact, data cited by AIN show compliance is far from universal, with 17.5 percent of the piston-powered general aviation fleet (35,791 of 204,191) currently equipped.
One of the article’s takeaways is that avionics shops are starting to run out of installation slots, and there’s a potential for equipment shortages depending on the products chosen. Pricing may reflect the increasing demand, according to panelists. The end result for many operators, they say, will be that their aircraft is effectively grounded at the end of the year. As we edge close to the deadline and pass it, I think we’re going to see a couple of other developments.
First, and as I’ve ruminated here before, the value of personal aircraft already equipped with ADS-B Out won’t change much. Instead, the value of non-equipped aircraft will take a hit. Essentially, ADS-B already is considered mandatory for a traveling aircraft, and sellers marketing one without it must be prepared to settle for less than they could have received a year or so ago. This will be especially true for turbine-powered airplanes which operate more efficiently in Class A airspace. Some of them may simply be parked or sold overseas as their owners decide the ADS-B investment—which may not be the only major expense they face—isn’t worth it.
Second, ADS-B Out installations aboard in-service aircraft will continue long past next January. As the deadline’s dust settles, shop time will free up, equipment prices will stabilize and owners who can afford to wait will write the check, allowing them once again to access the so-called rule airspace unfettered. Like it or not, ADS-B is a new standard.
— Jeb Burnside