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ADS-B: Your Questions Answered

Our July 13 webinar aimed to answer some questions that may be keeping operators from installing ADS-B.

The FAA has not budged on its Dec. 31, 2019, deadline for installation of ADS-B Out on aircraft flying in large portions of U.S. civil airspace, including helicopters.

The latest confirmation came from FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, who told the Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, in July the deadline is not changing.

Operators of many different types have been much slower to equip than the FAA and some in the industry would like to have seen by now. Huerta told the Oshkosh crowd that only about 26,000 aircraft of roughly 160,000 of required types have been equipped with ADS-B Out technology to date. As we reported, the FAA said that through mid-May, only 1,249 of 15,846 U.S.-rotorcraft registered had been equipped.

The slow pace of overall coverage persists despite the FAA’s offer of a $500 rebate to owners of U.S.-registered, fixed-wing, single-engine piston aircraft (whose operation requires an onboard pilot) who met all the offer’s terms. The rebate deal, which the FAA said was intended to reduce the cost of ADS-B for the less expensive general aviation airplane fleet, was scheduled to end Sept. 19.

The FAA offered 20,000 of the $500 rebates. In early September, the FAA reported, only about half of those rebates had been reserved.

“I didn’t think we’d have any problem giving away free money,” Huerta said at Oshkosh.

HAI chief Matt Zuccaro in June faulted the rebate program for excluding helicopters, saying that was “counter to the reality that the helicopter industry is the general aviation segment to first embrace ADS-B technology and continues to support its full implementation.” The FAA proved out ADS-B system capabilities in part through collaboration with Gulf of Mexico operators serving offshore rigs starting in the mid-2000s.

HAI said the FAA rejected its call to change the rebate program to include helicopters.

To assist helicopter owners and operators wrestling questions about when and how to equip for ADS-B in the U.S., we hosted a free webinar on the topic July 13.

(You can find the webinar, “ADS-B: The Latest on Compliance, Installation and Operation,” at It is available on demand.)

The webinar, which was also hosted by R&WI sister publication Avionics and sponsored by Applied Avionics, Becker Avionics and CMD Flight Solutions, brought in nearly 1,000 viewers from all over the world. They submitted some 150 questions. Here some of the questions asked — some of which were answered during the webinar and others answered since then.

For those pondering the most basic question — “Do I even need to install ADS-B on my helicopter?” — the FAA’s ADS-B Focus Team lead, James Marks, gave a simple answer during the webinar.

“The ADS-B rule is an airspace rule,” he said. No matter what kind of helicopter or mission you fly, if operates in certain U.S. airspace, it will need ADS-B Out by 2020: Class B airspace (from the ground up within the “Mode C ring”) and Class C (from the ground up). “Rule airspace” also includes that above 10,000 feet and below 18,000 feet in the contiguous U.S. and that at or above 3,000 feet over the Gulf of Mexico. (Rule airspace also includes Class A airspace, 18,000 feet and higher, where you won’t find many helicopters.)

Why is it still necessary to do ADS-B flight test per Advisory Circular 20-165B for supplemental type certificate approvals when all of the parameters can be properly tested during ground tests?

“I can’t speak for my colleagues in [the FAA Aircraft Certification Service],” said Marks, who works in the agency’s Flight Standards Service. “But I can say that the FAA is interested in determining what the performance of the avionics is dynamically in flight. So a system can be designed to meet the performance standards required for the rule, but we really don’t know what the performance is until we actually take a system up and test fly it and then analyze the data afterward to verify that it does meet the applicable standards. That’s one reason that I’m aware of.”

Another speaker, Duncan Aviation Senior Avionics Modification Specialist Gary Harpster, said, “I will say that in all the installations that we’ve done, there have been times when the aircraft will completely test good on the ground and act differently when it’s in the air.

“For that reason, just so that we all have a ‘feel-good’ about the installation, we are asking customers to do a test flight on the aircraft after the installation is completed, just so that we know we’ve got everything addressed. Some aircraft just have that peculiarity,” Harpster said.

Is a helicopter ADS-B Out message required to have a length/width code configured?

“I don’t know of any language in AC 20-165B that waives the requirement for any aircraft to not transmit the length/width code when it’s on the surface,” Marks said. “Of course, that’s a challenge for helicopters because they hover-taxi, they’re airborne while they’re taxiing around the airport. When they’re in that configuration, they’re not required to transmit the length/width code.”

Is ADS-B failure annunciation mandatory for compliance with the ADS-B mandate?

“It is,” CMD Flight Solutions President Daniel Buzz said. “When the initial advisory circular came out, it was a requirement. Then they came back and reconsidered and the FAA said it is ‘recommended.’ We use the annunciation, and most of the other STC holders use the annunciation, because it takes away the questioning from the flight crew if you’re only using transponder-fail annunciation to indicate an ADS-B fail. The flight crew does not have a way to determine whether it is an ADS-B function, or it is the Mode A or Mode C [transponder]? In all our STCs, we use a remote annunciator to alleviate that confusion from the flight crew. RWI