Industry Insights

What Maintenance Professionals Need to Know About ADS-B

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At ATP, in our unique position as the hub connecting many of the industry’s key players, we spend a lot of time speaking with maintenance professionals, manufacturers, regulators, and leaders at associations such as GAMA, HAI and NBAA. Recently, in some of our discussions, it became apparent that there is still a lack of awareness – and even some confusion – about how the ADS-B mandate will affect our maintenance customers and friends.

What is The ADS-B?

The FAA’s Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) mandate requires aircraft to be equipped with a next-generation air traffic control system by January 1, 2020.  While this mandate is going to most directly affect the owners and operators of the aircraft, it is also going to have a significant effect on maintenance shops whose job is to keep the aircraft airworthy.

Based on the timeline and installation rates, the current situation doesn’t look good. It seems that there’s not enough of a sense of urgency within the industry. This is possibly due to a lack of awareness combined with a belief that there’s still plenty of time to act before 2020. Whatever the case, we would like to join the conversation and share information about this important issue for the aviation industry.

How Will ADS-B Effect The Aviation Industry?

With so many aircraft requiring the mandatory upgrade—combined with the limited capacity of service providers able to retrofit them all—it’s becoming increasingly clear that we will see a bottleneck as we approach the deadline. A number of aircraft will likely be grounded starting in 2020 unless something drastic changes.

In a recent Forbes article, Jens Henning, Vice President of Operations for the General Aircraft Manufacturers Association (GAMA) is quoted as saying “Capacity is going to be strained.”  The article also quotes Michael Dyment, founder and Managing Partner of Nexa — a D.C.-based investment banking firm that has been in the vanguard of NextGen infrastructure initiatives — who estimates that about 100 aircraft per day would need to be retrofitted between September 2016 (when the article came out) and the end of 2019 in order for the majority of the GA fleet to be FAA-compliant by the deadline. However, that’s about four times the number of aircraft that are currently being outfitted with the ADS-B-Out avionics.

According to Duncan Aviation, as the deadline “draws nearer, there will be a critical shortage of hangar space at qualified shops, not to mention a shortage of skilled avionics technicians who can perform and install the upgrades.” They also predict costs will increase due to scheduling bottlenecks as we approach the deadline.

Duncan Aviation has talked to customers and others in the industry to find out why people are putting off the retrofitting. I recommend reading their blog posting here, which dispels Four Myths About ADS-B.

It’s also worth noting that in April 2017, Victoria Wassmer, the FAA’s Acting Deputy Administrator, reiterated that the mandate deadline is not going to be extended:

“I’m going to say this as plainly as I can: The ADS-B equipage deadline is not changing…If you plan to fly your plane in most controlled airspace after December 31, 2019, you’re going to need to install ADS-B.”

Final Thoughts On ADS-B and Recommendations

I’m strongly recommending that we all, as an industry, be pro-active in joining this conversation and preparing for ADS-B. We can face this challenge head-on by mobilizing with a sense of urgency to ensure that the entire industry can transition to this NextGen technology with minimal disruption.

As for maintenance professionals, you can start communicating this deadline and the potential for bottlenecks with your owner and operator customers. Maintenance professionals need to begin advising customers to begin the process sooner rather than later.

Additional AskBob AMT Community Articles With More Information About The ADS-B Mandate

Many articles have been shared on this topic on ATP’s AskBob AMT Community going all the way back to 2011. Here are a few articles that provide some additional information that can be helpful.

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