As regular readers know, I am a long-time member of a Leesburg, Va., based flying club that owns a 1967 Cessna 182 Skylane. Over the years, the significant upgrades we have made, both voluntary improvements like the GNS-430W and “involuntary” upgrades such as those required by a 2006 deer strike repair, have made our 50-year-old bird a lot younger than its chronological age. We love our airplane and consider it priceless in many ways. Still, we, like many other airplane owners, struggled with the idea that ADS-B equipage might cost a significant percentage of the airplane’s appraised value.
There was never a question of whether we would install ADS-B Out equipment. Our home base location inside the Washington, D.C. Tri-Area Class B and Special Flight Rules Area made that a true no-brainer decision. The issues we debated were the same “what” and “when” that our fellow owners face.
Until 2016, we took a watch-and-wait approach, figuring — correctly — that manufacturers would provide more options at lower prices as the 2020 equipage deadline drew closer. That strategy also enabled us to start saving money toward the eventual ADS-B acquisition and installation costs.
As more equipment options began to appear, we assigned a member to research and report pros and cons so the board could develop recommendations for the full membership. We concluded pretty quickly that the certified ADS-B Out and In boxes were beyond our budget. Even if finances had allowed, though, we also surmised that the ever-quickening pace of new technology might render one of those devices obsolete almost as soon as it could be installed. Consequently, we narrowed the scope of our search to certified ADS-B Out solutions and decided to use a “bring-your-own-device” approach to ADS-B In.
An aging equipment issue helped us further narrow the field. A properly functioning transponder is essential pretty much everywhere these days, but in our uniquely complex home airspace, it really matters. Over a few months starting in late 2015, another club member and I each had transponder malfunctions that got the attention of the many sets of eyes and ears watching the National Capital airspace.
Because it was clear that we needed a new transponder, we confined our ADS-B options to transponder-based solutions and, after more duly diligent research both on equipment options and installation facilities, we selected a device that would enable non-certified ADS-B In weather and traffic data for everyone in the club with a tablet and a ForeFlight subscription.
Being skittish about our balky old transponder, we also accelerated our installation timetable. By the end of August, our faithful Skylane emerged from a two-week installation process with a shiny new ADS-B Out transponder and non-certified (but fabulous) ADS-B In capability. While we missed out on the FAA’s ADS-B Equipage Incentive Program rebate by a few weeks, we are confident that we made the right “what” and “when” decisions for our circumstances.
Targets … Lots of Targets
The certified part of our new device makes our airplane compliant with the ADS-B Out rule, and we are certainly relieved to have a reliable transponder. However, the addition of the non-certified ADS-B In data, especially traffic, has quickly become “the” benefit. We always knew there were a lot of airplanes in the sky around our home base, but ADS-B In traffic data has provided jaw-dropping confirmation of that fact.
We are well aware that we still need to be looking outside when flying VFR, but most of us already wonder how we ever got along without the assistance of ADS-B information. I personally find that knowing how many airplanes I see on the ADS-B display — but not with my Mark II eyeballs — has made me a lot more diligent about scanning for traffic when I am flying VFR. In addition, ADS-B traffic displays help me spot those airplanes a lot faster.
If you detect the zeal of a new convert in this ADS-B PIREP, you’re right. I think you’ll love it as much as I do and, once you see all you’ve been missing, I think you will be just as eager as I am to get your fellow GA pilots ADS-B equipped — stat! (FAA Safety Briefing – MarApr2017)