[Avionics Today 11-4-2014] The FAA's "call to action" day last week resulted in the formation of the Equip 2020 working group. According to the agency, the Equip 2020 group is tasked with working with commercial and General Aviation (GA) operators to identify the key barriers they are facing when it comes to equipping their aircraft with Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast Out (ADS-B Out) avionics to comply with the Jan. 1, 2020 National Airspace System (NAS) mandate.
Aspen Avionics ATX 100 ADS-B transceiver provides an ADS-B solution for aircraft equipped with a Mode A/C transponder and a WAAS GPS navigation receiver. Receives ADS-B subscription-free weather, traffic and meets ADS-B Out mandate below 18,000 feet. Photo: Aspen Avionics.
Among the barriers that were identified during the meeting were the cost and availability of upgraded GPS receivers, streamlining certification procedures and the development of "low cost avionics," according to a statement released by the FAA.
"One of the takeaways from the meeting was that we need to clean up that guidance material via [Advisory Circular] AC 20-165A, the guidance that are out there to the field staff in 8900.1 or in other documents, to make sure that the FAA guidance is not part of the confusion but rather that there is complete clarity for the thousands of pilots out there right now looking to equip their aircraft," said Jens Hennig, vice president of operations for the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), who participated in the meeting.
AC 20-165A is the FAA's Advisory Circular that provides guidance for the installation of ADS-B Out equipment in aircraft. Installation requirements and the type of equipment necessary to comply with the 2020 mandate depend mostly on the type of aircraft being upgraded. According to AC 20-165A, aircraft need to be equipped with either a 1090 Extended Squitter solution operating on the 1090 MHz frequency band, as specified under TSO-CI66, or with a Universal Access Transceiver (UAT) operating on the 978 MHz frequency.
Aircraft operating in Class A airspace — above 18,000 feet — will be required to be equipped with a 1090 ADS-B Out solution. The easiest way for those needing upgrades to think about the requirement is best explained by Garmin's online "ADS-B Academy," which states that virtually all aircraft operating in U.S.-controlled airspace where a transponder is now required will need to be equipped or upgraded with at least two avionics components: a high integrity or Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS)-enabled GPS and an ADS-B data link solution.
Another major discussion at the meeting occurred between airline representatives and the FAA, as both acknowledged that there is still "some more work to be done to accommodate that community," said Hennig.
"The path forward that they’re exploring for the transport air carrier aircraft for the airlines is that they have committed to meeting the 2020 mandate for the transponder upgrade, but that they’re looking for a little bit of flexibility with respect to the timing of having a GPS capability that has all the necessary stringencies identified in the rule," said Hennig.
During the meeting, airline industry group Airlines for America (A4A) proposed flexibility for airlines looking to meet the mandate, with extension of the mandate for air carriers through 2025, "through an exemption,” Hennig said. “And what the FAA committed to was to work over the next several weeks to come out with a framework for how that part of the way forward would occur.”
Of course, a meeting such as the "call to action" day would have been incomplete without a discussion regarding financing of the necessary avionics upgrades. The 2012 FAA Reauthorization bill provided the agency with the authority to enter into public-private partnerships on financing. While the agency still has that authority, the details on how to execute financing through those types of partnerships still needs to be finalized. This will be one of the major goals of the Equip 2020 working group.
While some operators could still be waiting to see if competition drives the price of ADS-B solutions down, that is not likely to happen within the next five years, according to Hal Adams, co-founder and chief operating officer of Accord Technology.
"Waiting on lower cost avionics is a myth. Avionics have a minimum threshold of costs (non-recurring engineering) to accommodate [and] meet all the FAA requirements. As an industry, there may be one or two entries that will be somewhat less in cost, but new solutions are not likely," said Adams, who has extensive experience in the avionics manufacturing industry, having formerly served in business development positions for Rockwell Collins and Thales.
"To me, there are two key changes that are a must. The FAA needs to be much more aggressive in outreach to the community, not another program layer; look out, not in. The other is cost burden in GA. The air transport entities seem determined to pay a premium but the GA entities will not, cannot. The [Public-Private Partnership] PPP will enable, via simple signature loans, and stimulate equipage," said Adams.
According to the latest statistics provided by the FAA, there is a range of 100,000 to 160,000 GA aircraft that currently require upgrades. The reason why this is a range and not a specific number is because the requirements are dependent upon where the aircraft is flown, how it is flown, and what type of access the operator wants to have. In comparison, the number of air transport aircraft requiring equipage is closer to about 6,000 aircraft, said Hennig.
Regarding the cost of equipage — especially for GA operators — John Uczekaj, president and CEO of Aspen Avionics, is a strong supporter of the public-private partnership model to provide financing for aircraft owners and pilots.
"We continue to be a strong supporter of the NextGen GA Fund and feel it is critical to have this in place as a tool to finance the installations for our current and future customers," said Uczekaj. "As our ADS-B products come to market over the next quarter we will be making use of this important tool to help our customers cost-effectively implement their solutions. We urge all those involved with this effort to move forward with all of the necessary authorizations and processes to make this critical tool available in time for effective use by aircraft owners."
The tasks at hand for the government Equip 2020 working group include: addressing the barriers to equipage for all categories of aviation operators, increasing outreach (especially to the GA community), clarifying the ADS-B Out installation requirements outlined in AC 20-165A and moving forward with the public-private partnerships when it comes to financing equipage in accordance with the authority provided by the 2012 FAA Reauthorization bill. With five years remaining until the 2020 ADS-B Out mandate, the group should have plenty of time to address all of the above.