In many ways, January 2020 seems forever away. At the time of this writing, January 2015 seems pretty remote as well. But the progression of time is relentless and, regardless of how it feels right now, I know it will be January 2015 before long – and January 2020 won’t be far behind.
The January 2020 focus is because of the ADS-B Out mandate. Like many other aircraft owners, my flying club is grappling with the numerous issues arising from compliance. There’s no question of whether we will meet the requirements of the regulation. Our location – just under the Washington D.C. Tri-Area Class B airspace and on the edge of the Washington D.C. Special Flight Rules Area – means that we comply or else we don’t fly. What we are trying to determine is how best to comply, with “best” being fuzzily defined in terms of balancing what we can afford with what we would like to have in an ideal world.
Finding a Way “Out”
The ideal world would include a top of the line ADS-B unit that provides not only the required ADS-B Out capability, but the full range of no-cost ADS-B In weather and traffic data long touted as one of the major advantages for most non-commercial GA operators. Of course our ideal world would also include a nice three-axis autopilot and glass-cockpit avionics, but for the purposes of this article I’ll limit the discussion to ADS-B.
One of our members has just finished researching options appropriate for our group, ranging from an ouch!-but-affordable ADS-B Out only solution, to the full-bore “comes with everything” box that we can consider only if everyone in the group agrees to a fairly hefty assessment, and to having the airplane out of service for longer than most would like.
The upper end is likely out of reach for my club, which has suffered through several years’ worth of ugly and largely unexpected repair bills. At the same time, those who use the airplane primarily for personal/family transportation and vacation travel are eager to ensure that we don’t miss out on the benefits of ADS-B In.
To that end, we’ve kicked around the idea of a hybrid approach to getting the best of both worlds. In the hybrid solution, we would take the lower end option for ADS-B Out only, thus ensuring that we are in compliance with the legal requirements for operating in our home airspace after January 1, 2020. To get the benefits of ADS-B In, we would purchase an iPad, one of the hand-held ADS-B receivers, and a flight planning app that, in conjunction with the ADS-B device, could display ADS-B In weather and traffic information on the club-owned iPad. Since most of the members who would benefit from ADS-B In capability already have their own suite of DIY ADS-B In devices and apps, there may not even be any need for a corporately-owned ADS-B In solution.
Only two things are certain at this point: (1) we need to get moving on an ADS-B Out compliance solution in the very near future; and (2) much, much debate and discussion will go in to the decision-making process.
“In” the Know
There is actually one other point of certainty, at least from my individual perspective: however much we all grouse about the expense and the inconvenience, we’re going to like the benefits. And, much as it has been with GPS, my fearless prediction is that it won’t take very long for us to wonder how we ever got along without this technology. As one of those early adopters with my own complement of DIY ADS-B In devices and apps, I’ve clearly seen how helpful it will be to have the extra information. Though I have lots of non-ADS-B options for getting in-flight weather information, ADS-B technology is the only affordable/practical means for getting traffic information in my club’s airplane. I’ve flown enough with radar-based TIS-B in Civil Air Patrol-owned airplanes to have a sense of how much traffic that the “Mark II Eyeball” method doesn’t see in this heavily-congested airspace. So I’m very eager for a world in which everyone is equipped with ADS-B Out, and in which fellow club members and I have a range of options for seeing all those airplanes we aren’t spotting today. (FAA Safety Briefing – JanFeb 2015)