Administrator Michael Huerta on July 31 acknowledged a series of wiring and installation issues with ADS-B that are creating false targets. But he urged attendees at the Experimental Aircraft Association AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wis., to continue to install ADS-B sooner rather than later, saying the 2020 deadline will not change.
"There is still a five-and-a-half year window to get it done," he says in prepared remarks. "But the date is firm. As a nation, we need to modernize our airspace and take advantage of superior GPS capabilities and the enhanced safety and efficiency these capabilities will bring to all of us."
He notes that thousands of general aviation aircraft owners have already equipped, saying "The experimental community is often at the forefront of adopting advanced technology." But he adds, "You are helping us by flagging difficulties you may have encountered with equipage so far."
The agency is tracking installations and has found problems with improper avionics installations and system configurations, he notes. "We want to fix these problems immediately and we are providing a free service where we will verify ADS-B Out avionics performance," he says, adding the agency has set up a dedicated email account for operators to request equipment checks from the agency. The agency can check proper transmissions through a search of a data base of flight tracks at its Tech Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey, he says.
Last month the agency checked 300 aircraft "and helped owners fix issues."
Huerta emphasizes the benefits of ADS-B, particularly in remote areas where radar coverage is limited such as in the Gulf of Mexico and mountainous regions of Colorado and Alaska. "ADS-B enables us to determine an aircraft’s location with far greater accuracy than radar," he says. "Now that we’ve completed the nationwide installation of the transceivers, ADS-B is bringing free weather and traffic updates to the cockpit from coast to coast."
He also notes that the equipage mandate is only required for controlled airspace. But he notes that equipping earlier will help prevent delays at repair stations as the deadline draws near. Manufacturers and repair stations have been urging FAA to provide clear word to the industry on a set deadline, saying any variances will create confusion and serve as a disincentive to equipage.
The numbers of operators equipping continues to grow rapidly, but estimates have ranged than between 85-100 aircraft need to be equipped each day between now and 2020 to meet the deadline. An estimated 160,000 aircraft need to be equipped with ADS-B Out by 2020. But by the end of the first quarter, fewer than 4,000 were equipped, according to FAA and industry estimates.
Manufacturers and repair stations say FAA has done its part in releasing the technical requirements, providing enough time for manufacturers to ramp up and get product to market. They also say that there is enough capacity right now to equip the fleet if operators don’t wait.
The number of available products continues to grow, including new units announced during AirVenture from manufacturers such as L-3. Other providers include Aspen Avionics, Freeflight Systems and Garmin.
But operators are remaining skeptical, especially in light of work on potential equipment issues. EAA Chairman Jack Pelton notes operators are wondering whether if they equip early will they be forced to comply with airworthiness directives and other changes while the technology evolves. Operators are asking, "Where’s the value of equipping right now?" Pelton says.