The 11th Hour of the ADSB-Out Mandate

July 12, 2018
Less than 18 Months are left until the January 1, 2020 mandate. If your or your customer's aircraft are not yet equipped and need to be you had better get them scheduled NOW!

The subject of Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast or ADS-B is not new. Much has been written and spoken about on this topic since the rule was published by the FAA in May 2010. Simply stated by January 1, 2020, your aircraft must be equipped with ADS-B Out in order to operate (fly) in most controlled airspace in the United States. If you want to review the regulations take a look at 14 CFR 91.225 and 14 CFR 91.227.

One would think with a 10 year notice there wouldn’t be so much “buzz” going on today, so close to the mandate, about ADS-B Out equipage. Earlier this year I began hearing heightened discussion on ADS-B Out equipage. What caught my attention was the number and types of aircraft that are not equipped and still need to be. I was surprised, perhaps puzzled, because it wasn’t only the small general aviation airplanes that were being discussed. I may have assumed incorrectly that most of the procrastinators were owners of small general aviation airplanes. Most of the discussion I was hearing related to large business aircraft not yet equipped.

What do the numbers say?  

It’s difficult to determine accurately how many aircraft in the United States must be equipped with ADSB-Out by Jan. 1, 2020. The FAA’s website says that more than 100,000 aircraft in the United States will need to equip with ADS-B Out before Jan. 1, 2020. I’ve heard from some in the industry that number may be small and more like 160,000 aircraft.

This same FAA website shows progress charts by month on the number of aircraft that were equipped. At the time of this writing the U.S. General Aviation Fixed-Wing chart showed 41,673 aircraft have been equipped. The All U.S. Aircraft chart showed 57,483 equipped. So, you do the math. See

What do the installation centers say?

I decided to dig a bit further and discuss this topic with a few General and Business Aviation maintenance providers that accomplish avionics installations and flight deck upgrades including ADSB-Out. I was interested to learn, and pass on to you, what they are experiencing, hearing and seeing, what the challenges are, and what they suggest to owners and operators still waiting to install equipment.

My interest was in the business aviation aircraft segment. I spoke with these four companies which are similar in the types of work they accomplish. I spoke with Mark Wilken, vice president of avionics programs and operational logistics at Elliott Aviation; Marty Rhine, director of sales at West Star Aviation; Steve Elofson, avionics installations sales at Duncan Aviation; and Blake Hogge, director completion and modification sales at 
Constant Aviation. They are all large well-known maintenance organizations focused primarily on business jets. For a little balance, I also spoke with Andrew Stiles, avionics lead at Fargo Jet Center, because they have accomplished ADS-B Out installations on small single-engine private-owned airplanes, as well as turboprops and business jets.

I wanted to hear how the avionics management at these companies characterizes the current situation regarding ADSB-Out solution installations. I asked them all the same general questions and for the most part they all replied with very similar responses. They are all seeing and experiencing pretty much the same things regarding ADS-B Out equipage right now.

Here’s what I learned

It appears that ADSB-Out installs have picked up substantially since 2017 and some installation centers report a current scheduling backlog of six to nine months. They all reported a huge surge recently in request for quotes (RFQ) in some cases 10-30 per day for ADSB-Out work. Most stated it is difficult to keep up with the quote requests because each quote takes research depending on the aircraft type, the equipment type desired by the owner/operator, STC understanding, workload planning, and it may take weeks for the MRO to provide a response. In some cases installation centers talk to each other to determine who has capacity for certain aircraft types, when and where.

This situation is supported by the Aircraft Electronics Association (AEA). AEA president Paula Derks says, "AEA member shops are reporting their backlogs for installs steadily increasing in the last several months. The average shop they spoke to has a three to six month backlog. It takes simple math to realize owners who have not yet equipped need to schedule their installations now or they may not find a shop that has the time to install their equipment by the mandate."

There are many popular upgrades being done today, more than just ADS-B installs. From a business perspective, MROs are faced with deciding what work to do and decisions like does it make business sense to accomplish a small work scope project or single piece of equipment installation, as opposed to a full cockpit/avionics upgrade project that includes ADSB-Out? MROs have to consider the large dollar projects versus the one off ADS-B installation project. Some customers may want to align a heavy check or other upgrade or refurbishment work with the ADS-B Out equipage. With limited hangar capacity and manpower, well again, go to the calendar and do the math.

One of the installation centers I spoke with has an extensive satellite network to accomplish the smaller install jobs so the main facilities can concentrate on the larger projects.

Many if not most of the STCs for installations are developed by the MROs working together with equipment OEMs. These installation centers are dealers for the avionics OEMs. The companies I spoke with have slowed or stopped developing new ADS-B Out STCs as there appears to be a solution for most aircraft.

The involvement and planning of ADS-B Out installations can vary immensely as the equipment requirements vary based on the customer. For example working with a Part 135 operator wanting to implement a standardized ADS-B solution for multiple business jets is very different from the install for a private aircraft owner regardless if it's a turboprop, jet or a single engine piston airplane. 

It appears to get down to this. When business is good available hangar space and manpower (capacity) becomes constrained. There is a limited number of skilled avionics technicians right now and there won’t be many more capable of this kind of work between now and the end of next year. The future is set.

What about equipment?

For the most part installation centers report there is not much of a problem with acquiring or modifying equipment – again depending on the type of aircraft, equipment, etc. Some supply chain issues were mentioned but is not one of the bigger constraints, but it can lengthen the aircraft downtime if not fully understood ahead of time.

Some equipment needs to be sent to the OEM for modification versus just installing new equipment. These OEMs may provide expedite options at a cost if you are faced with long turn-times for modified equipment. And some may offer exchange units rather that OEM modify or a new purchase. And you may also be faced with additional repair costs if your modified unit needs repair work or other upgrades.

Again from AEA President Derks, "With only 18 months left to comply, most likely, prices are not going to drop any further on equipment. Manufacturers are working to produce enough equipment in a timely matter. It’s now a matter of supply and demand, so there is no real incentive on the manufacturers to cut prices any further. What may happen is that while an aircraft owner wishes and waits for another price decrease in equipment, shop labor rates may increase due to their costs in expanding their capabilities and paying overtime to avionics technicians. We strongly encourage aircraft owners to schedule their installation now."

Comments and suggestions from industry if you are still in need of equipage?

When it gets down to the third quarter of 2019 it’s going to get ugly. We will likely see some level of ADS-B Out installs throughout the year 2020.

If you don’t have your aircraft or fleet equipped yet and it needs to be, get it done NOW! Make an equipment selection and schedule the airplane. 

Operators are putting money down on scheduling slots for 2019. There’s not going to be much if any capacity in 2019.

Forget about competitive quotes. These companies are busy, quotes take time, and the better deals were a few years ago.

About 1,000 aircraft per month have been equipped over the past five to six months. One estimate says 30 percent may be at risk of not being done by Jan. 1, 2020.

About the Author

Ronald Donner | Aviation Consultant | AMT

Ronald (Ron) Donner has spent his entire life devoted to aviation and he holds FAA certificates as an A&P/IA, and a Commercial Pilot with Single and Multi Engine Land, Instrument Airplane and Glider ratings. Ron has worked in a variety of maintenance related roles, both technical and management in general aviation as well as with a major airline. Ron was the recipient of the 2012 National Air Transportation Association (NATA) Aviation Journalism award.  

Contact: Ron Donner

Chief Editor | Aircraft Maintenance Technology

[email protected]


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