My recent month-long correspondence with a reader dealing with a botched ADS-B installation got me thinking about the logistic nightmare thats already unfolding as the 2020 ADS-B mandate gets closer. More on how you might troubleshoot your installation, or at least figure out if its working or not, in a minute. First, some updated ADS-B stats.
The majority of the fleet that will fly in controlled airspace-nearly 160,000 aircraft-is expected to line up at shops for ADS-B upgrades before December 31, 2019. The equippage effort is falling short because only a fraction of the fleet has been upgraded. The AEA (Aircraft Electronics Association) estimates there are roughly 900 FAA repair stations in the U.S. that should be qualified to perform ADS-B installations. That means more than 120 installations will need to be performed each working day, or 30,000 annually. This assumes that shops will do nothing else but install ADS-B.
Unless the FAA postpones the compliance date, theres going to be a sizable installation demand and perhaps some grounded aircraft, but there could also be FAA enforcement targeting faulty installations. Its already watching with its compliance monitoring system, part of which generates a detailed analysis of an ADS-B transmission. Essentially, the FAA is looking at the transmitted data elements that should be first tested by the installing shop before it releases the aircraft for flight in ADS-B airspace. Ultimately, it was this captured field data that helped Garmin troubleshoot one installation after a shop signed off the interface with incorrect software, incorrect wiring and a misprogrammed configuration.
These installation learning curves could further delay compliance, but should the FAA fund installers to acquire the test equipment needed for the installation? Its a sizable investment that some small shops cant afford. Its also a cost that could ultimately inflate installation prices. Still, you should pick an installer that has experience with your interface. If the system needs field approval, the repair station should also possess good regulatory skills.
Ive talked with a lot of pilots that wonder if their ADS-B Out system is actually working, and some are not. Besides querying a controller about the status of your ADS-B transmissions, there is the official FAA ADS-B Aircraft Operational Compliance Report you can request.
This FAA analysis details the status, integrity and any missing elements in the ADS-B broadcast at a given time and location, whether its airborne or surface 1090ES or UAT transmissions. The report will list any FAR 91.227 non-compliance issues that have been identified and warns that Prior to January 1, 2020, the owner/operator must take action to correct identified system performance deficiencies as soon as practical. After January 1, 2020, performance issues must be corrected prior to operation of the aircraft in the airspace specified in FAR 91.225. This is enforcement language, if you didnt notice.
If you have the ForeFlight Mobile tablet app and the Appareo Stratus 2 portable ADS-B combo, theres a simple function that offers details about the aircraft ADS-B Out setup. Its found by following Devices, Stratus and then Ownship tab. You can request a compliance report from the FAA by emailing them (9-AWA-AFS-300-ADSB-AvionicsCheck@FAA.gov) and include aircraft N-number, ADS-B transmitter make and model, plus the interfaced GPS make and model. Its a highly technical report, but valuable.