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Business Aviation Ramping Up ADS-B, but 5,500 Aircraft May Fail to Meet Deadline

With less than two months remaining until the FAA’s Jan. 1, 2020 ADS-B Out deadline becomes effective, we look at U.S. business aviation operator equipage trends.

While the FAA is likely to limit significantly the number of exemptions granted for flights of aircraft without Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (Out) after Jan. 1 next year, nearly 5,500 business aviation aircraft are likely to be without such capability on Jan. 1 next year, according to a recent estimate by Nebraska-based Duncan Aviation.

The MRO said in September that at least 1,660 business jets—about 23 percent of the inventory—and 3,800 turboprops—about 49 percent—will lack ADS-B (Out) early next year.

“Operators of aircraft not equipped with ADS-B (Out) must request a deviation at least one hour before the flight from the air traffic control facility with jurisdiction over the airspace,” said Matt Nelson, the satellite operations manager for Duncan Aviation. “Requests are considered on a case-by-case basis, and authorizations may be declined due to workload, runway configurations, air-traffic flows, weather conditions, among other reasons.”

FAA will likely not provide frequent waivers for flights of aircraft without ADS-B after Jan. 1, as the agency said in July that it is providing relief to federal, state, and local authorities to switch off ADS-B transmissions when government aircraft are “conducting sensitive national defense, homeland security, intelligence and law enforcement missions that could be compromised by transmitting real time identification and positional flight information over ADS–B.”

Representatives for the FAA told Avionics International via emailed statements that turning off ADS-B transmissions is not an option for business aviation aircraft, the agency said that it “is developing a concept that could offer improved privacy to [general aviation] operators using ADS-B.”

“Eligible aircraft are 1090 MHz Extended Squitter ADS-B equipped flying domestic operations,” the FAA said. “UAT [Universal Access Transceiver] ADS-B equipped aircraft already have an anonymous mode available that is permitted by the ADS-B Out rule,” the agency said.

Duncan Aviation holds or has access to 42 Supplemental Type Certificates (STCs) for FAA-approved ADS-B equipment across 100 models from single-engine piston aircraft to multi-engine turbines. Duncan Aviation said that it has done more 1,000 ADS-B installations thus far and foresees another 100 before the end of 2019.

Business jets awaiting modifications at Duncan Aviation’s Lincoln, Nebraska facility. Duncan Aviation

The maintenance, repair and overhaul provider has been providing occasional updates about the rate of equipage for various models of twin-engine business jets. Their latest such example shows that with 14 weeks remaining until the Jan. 1, 2020 ADS-B Out deadline in the U.S. For business jets, the ramp up of such installations since then appears to have been steady, but significant numbers of business aviation aircraft remain without ADS-B.

“Much to our surprise, there has not yet been a ‘major rush,’” Nelson said. “Duncan Aviation has led mandated avionics upgrades over the past many decades and like all mandates, it starts slow and has a predictable ramp-up over time. We did see an initial surge after the announcement of our ADS-B Now campaign in late 2016. However, this mandate response has not been typical. There are still lots of aircraft out there that are not in compliance, but we are not seeing the activity levels we would typically expect this close to a mandate deadline.”

Nelson said that there are still some slots available at Duncan Aviation’s satellite shops to install ADS-B equipment and that Duncan aviation can perform the work in less than 10 days.

But MRO slots can be hard to find for business aviation operators this late in the game.

“We have customers that are still on the fence on when they will comply with ADS-B, and this has presented an issue due to parts and STC support,” said Jerry Sanders, the director of avionics program management and business development for StandardAero Business Aviation. “The fluidity of parts support has presented an issue with us being able to provide a firm input date so other upgrades like connectivity solutions or flight deck upgrades will be scheduled into those slots where an ADS-B upgrade might otherwise go due to the support issues with parts.”

StandardAero began installing ADS-B systems in 2014 and has done hundreds of such upgrades, though Sanders said that it is hard to provide a firm estimate, given that many business operators were requesting other upgrades, such as flight deck upgrades and new flight management solutions, as a package.

“ADS-B and mandate spending overall is dwindling down and has recently been overtaken by customers requesting connectivity or cabin upgrades,” he said. “What we have been noticing is that since the more customers are looking for connectivity and cabin solutions, it has been putting pressure on slots that would be open for ADS-B upgrades.”

Sanders said that StandardAero foresees an “80 percent reduction in ADS-B installations between next year and this year.”

StandardAero Houston recently completed a Falcon 2000 3C Inspection with ADS-B Out modification. StandardAero

“Most of the installations that are being requested now are for aircraft that are up for sale, or aircraft that are being sold,” he said

Scott Cutshall, the vice president of brand development at California-based Clay Lacy Aviation, said that “business aviation was slow to begin equipping aircraft as many in the industry thought the deadline would be extended.”

“But the FAA administrators did an excellent job of being very clear that there would be no delay or grace period with this mandate, and we noticed a significant increase in business at the start of 2019 as a result,” he said. “For those [operators] that have waited until now to schedule an installation, most MROs are booked and unable to complete the installs.”

Clay Lacy has developed a FANS [Future Air Navigation System] 1/A+ STC ADS-B solution for the Gulfstream GIV, GIVSP, GV and Challenger 601-3A and 601-3R models, and the company said that it has completed or is in the process of finishing some three dozen ADS-B installations.

Repair “shops are taking the better business deal,” said Pete Ring, the vice president of business development and chief strategy officer at the Texas-based avionics manufacturer, FreeFlight Systems.

“The market is at a saturation point in terms of its ability to equip with ADS-B, Ring said.

While business aviation operators do request ADS-B installation as a part of other, costlier upgrades, from a business standpoint, an MRO will choose to perform a $1.5 million engine overhaul over a straight, $50,000 ADS-B installation, Ring said.

Ring said that FreeFlight Systems has sold 4,000 of its 1203C Satellite Based Augmentation System/Global Navigation Satellite System (SBAS/GNSS) sensor, which is part of an ADS-B (Out)-compliant system when the 1203C is paired with a certified, compatible Mode S Extended Squitter transponder. Of the 4,000 1203Cs sold, 2,500 have been for business jets, Ring said. A key differentiator for FreeFlight Systems is cost, as a 1203C is priced at $15,000, compared to other systems, which can cost two and three times as much, he said.

Another avionics builder, L3Harris, has sold a number of ADS-B solutions, including the company’s NXT transponders and integrated ADS-B systems, such as T3CAS and LYNX®.

The ACSS (an L3 and Thales Company) NXT Mode S ADS-B Out transponder family. ACSS

“The situational awareness ADS-B provides is a game changer in the industry,” said Jodi Jones, a representative for L3Harris. “If you looked at the majority of pilots, most are pleased to embrace this upgrade provided their aircraft is of a newer generation or has hull value to support the upgrade,” she said. The only portion of the market that has expressed discontent are pilots with older aircraft with less hull value or operators that are not flying in controlled airspace. They feel some discomfort in being forced to upgrade and make the investment in a new transponder.”

In Canada, business aviation operators have at least an additional year to comply with ADS-B.

Canadian air navigation service provider Nav Canada has proposed a two-part implementation for requiring operators to equip their aircraft with ADS-B avionics, with a third portion becoming effective later down the line. In the first phase, the ANSP is proposing to require ADS-B Out DO-260, 260A or 260B avionics equipage for all operators flying in Class A airspace as well as Class E airspace above FL600 feet by Jan. 1, 2021. The second phase would require the same equipage rules for aircraft flying in Class B airspace by Jan. 1, 2022.

“Any further implementation of the mandate (Phase 3) would not take place before January 1, 2023 and it would follow additional stakeholder consultations,” said Ron Singer, a representative for Nav Canada. “Phase 3 would affect Class C, D and E airspace as required. The key phrase is ‘as required.’ It might not be all Class C, D and E airspace in the country.”

Additionally, the agency is proposing to include mandated antenna diversity, antennas mounted to the top and bottom of the fuselage, that would help support its goal of achieving a five nautical mile aircraft separation through space-based ADS-B surveillance.

“Antenna diversity is required for Phase 1 and 2,” Singer said. “Phase 3 is still a question. However, diversity will likely be required to meet the performance requirements. There are some innovative systems now being tested that show promise and we welcome the development of new affordable, reliable and certifiable aircraft avionics that can meet the performance requirements for the Aireon surveillance system. We still have more than three years until Phase 3 of the mandate is implemented so there is potential.”