Sean Elliott, the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) vice president of advocacy and safety, told the Federal Aviation Administration today that while the recreational aviation community is willing to work toward a modernization of the national airspace system, mandated ADS-B compliance is still fraught with too many hurdles to motivate general aviation aircraft owners to install the costly equipment.

Speaking at an FAA-sponsored “call to action” summit on ADS-B and NextGen in Washington, D.C., Elliott emphasized that the low installation rate in GA aircraft thus far – only about 6,200 aircraft out of 157,000 in the fleet – is due to a dubious cost/benefit ratio for aircraft owners. The FAA has mandated that ADS-B be installed in those aircraft by 2020 as a cornerstone of the NextGen system.

“Even the newest ADS-B units are priced at several thousand dollars, plus $1,000 or more for installation,” said Elliott, who is EAA’s vice president of advocacy and safety. “The expense of a single piece of equipment that costs 10 to 25 percent of the value of an entire airplane makes no sense to many of these aircraft owners, especially with little or no safety or situational awareness improvements, nor a reduction in cockpit workload.”

Elliott continued that the FAA has admitted for nearly a year that there are accuracy and reliability issues with ADS-B installations already completed. As many as two-thirds of the completed installations have resulted in erroneous or inaccurate signals, according to the FAA’s own estimates. In many cases, ADS-B is not compatible with existing GPS receivers, and does not eliminate the need for Mode A or Mode S transponders.

Mike Whitaker, FAA deputy administrator, emphasized again that the agency is not changing the 2020 mandate, but called the summit to discuss how the FAA and industry can work together to resolve barriers and address potential challenges.
“While the FAA reconfirmed the 2020 mandate, the agency and the aviation community’s stakeholders cannot sugarcoat these hurdles, because they could drive people out of aviation,” Elliott said. “EAA has offered a number of suggestions for pathways forward for the recreational aviation fleet. A mandate that is neither affordable nor relevant for a majority of aircraft within the national airspace system will only create additional challenges and confusion.”