ADS-B Out: The challenges of the 2020 mandate

Inside the cockpit of a private jet

Jose Maria Ocana's cockpit photo was the overall winner in PrivateFly's Private Jet Photography Awards 2013.

Automatic dependent surveillance – broadcast (ADS-B) is rapidly becoming the hottest topic in business aviation. The deadline for the new broadcasting and positioning system is getting closer and closer, but there is still a huge number of aircraft that do not fulfil the mandate requirements.

Corporate Jet Investor sat down with Christopher Benich, head of aerospace and regulatory affairs at Honeywell Aerospace, and Mark Francetic, regional avionics sales manager at Duncan Aviation, to discuss all things ADS-B.

Corporate Jet Investor: In terms of maintenance, what processes are required to install ADS-B?

Francetic: This varies depending on what systems the aircraft already has installed. The base equipment needed is usually a transponder and a GPS sensor, and then we need to find a form of annunciation for the package, and eliminate latency.

Corporate Jet Investor: Will there be similar mandates in the future, for example an ADS-B In mandate?

Francetic: ADS-B In could be mandated down the road, but the 2020 mandate is the biggest we’ll see. This is the equivalent of going from a flip phone to an iPhone, and almost as big as going from analogue to digital. This is a massive change in the industry, probably one of the biggest ever seen with the level of ground-breaking technology involved, so getting aircraft properly equipped is so, so important.

“This is the equivalent of going from a flip phone to an iPhone.”

Corporate Jet Investor: How much does an ADS-B system cost?

Francetic: Business jets fall under Part 25 (compared to Part 23 for general aviation aircraft), so systems can run between $50,000 – $200,000 depending on what avionics are currently installed and what work has been done in the past. The size of the aircraft is a factor for the cost of installation – but a more interesting factor is integration. Newer aircraft have more computers, and integrating new avionics and the appropriate software can make installing ADS-B more expensive on newer aircraft. It is much easier to upgrade older aircraft.

Corporate Jet Investor: What is the typical timeframe for installing an ADS-B system? Does this vary between aircraft type?

Francetic: Again, this mostly varies on what is currently installed on the aircraft. It can range from a few days to as long as three weeks. One of the challenges we face from a time perspective, as an MRO, is waiting for the boxes to come in from the manufacturers. We can have the aircraft all wired up and ready to complete the installation, but we get delayed, as we don’t have the correct boxes (transponders etc) to fit into the aircraft. This is a potential bottleneck, and can be one of the timeliest parts of the installation process.

Corporate Jet Investor: What is causing this delay of waiting for the avionics to arrive?

Francetic: There is a capacity issue right now on the logistical end. The new way OEMs work means that they will not build a part until they have received an order for it. They will not stock list and even though we all know how many aircraft still need the equipment, they will not build it until there is an order.

We are currently at 50% on where we should be – if this current rate doubles, there will be capacity issues. No one wants to hold onto inventory any more now that accountants run the world.

Benich: There are no supply issues right now, but we may have constraints closer to the deadline.

Corporate Jet Investor: How far in advance can you book shop time?

Francetic: Duncan Aviation has an ADS-B programme, which schedules slots for 2018 and 2019 at Duncan shops, or one of our satellite shops.

Corporate Jet Investor: How many aircraft are left that need to have ADS-B installed?

Francetic: In the USA there are roughly 20,000 aircraft that need to be upgraded, so there is a lot of work to do before 2020. I believe that trying to get maintenance shop time in 2019 will be too late, with the last six months before the deadline being very tough.

Corporate Jet Investor: For financiers, is there an easy way to tell if an aircraft has already been fitted for ADS-B?

Benich: The way to know would be via the aircraft logbook. Under the upgrade section in the manual, it will state what level of ADS-B has been installed. There are no visual signs, so the best way to tell is by looking at the logbook.

Corporate Jet Investor: Europe is also implementing ADS-B requirements. Is it inevitable that the rest of the world will follow?

Benich: There is a big push in Australia, as well as a large chunk of Asia, to move to ADS-B in the early 2020s. The requirement to upgrade is starting to come out for South East Asia, such as Indonesia. China currently has some initial capability, but it should be more robust for 2022. Along with the US and Europe, these are the key locations for ADS-B updates. There is no real plan for Africa, but some activity is underway.

Corporate Jet Investor: Will there be a similar mandate for ADS-B In?

Benich: A strong mandate for ADS-B In is a long way out. There is some usefulness to the system, but it is not necessary right now. People just need to focus on the ADS-B mandate right now.

Corporate Jet Investor: What is the most important thing owners/operators should know?

Francetic: The fact that there are only two and a half years left before the mandate. The number of aircraft left to equip is staggering, so we encourage everyone to schedule maintenance time.

Benich: We would like people to know that aircraft being grounded would have a profound affect on economies, especially more rural communities. For example, aircraft that normally would fly to a remote fishing lodge in Canada would no longer be able to do so if they are not equipped with ADS-B. Fewer visitors to the lodge would have quite an impact on the local economy, which can be a very dangerous thing.

The ADS-B backlog situation is like Black Friday. There is a huge amount of aircraft, and only limited capacity to install the ADS-B systems – which is like hundreds of people waiting for the doors to open at a department store on Black Friday. Only so many people can fit through. Inevitably some people will be left behind. And for aircraft, this could be as long as a two-year wait.

Corporate Jet Investor: The (multi) million dollar question: Will the deadline be extended?

Francetic: No. The infrastructure on the FAA’s end has been in place since 2015. They have invested a lot into ADS-B, and their position on extending the deadline has been made clear. They have said no, so we should expect that to follow through.

Benich: I would be very surprised if the deadline moved. There is no indication that it will be extended, and the FAA seems set on the 2020 deadline.