NBAA Convention News

Operators Warned To Book ADS-B Upgrade Slots or Be Grounded

 - October 10, 2018, 9:30 AM

Aircraft owners and operators in the U.S. and Europe are facing crunch time for finding slots for their fleets to be upgraded to ADS-B, which will be required for them to continue to fly in controlled airspace beyond the end of next year in the U.S., or mid-2020 in Europe.

Eric Stuck, product manager with Satair (Booth 1; Satair is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Airbus) told AIN that his experience managing parts for Honeywell-equipped aircraft that are being upgraded has highlighted that an extremely serious situation is developing. This is set against a backdrop of the FAA having mandated the upgrade of all aircraft to ADS-B Out almost nine years ago (under FAR 91.225), so the administration has ruled out pushing the deadline back, said Stuck. It affects operations in all Class A airspace, much of the Class B and C airspace within 30 nm of designated larger airports, but excludes Class F and G airspace, and Class E below 10,000 feet (or above 10,000 feet but below 2,500 feet agl).

Stuck’s focus is the upgrading of aircraft in the U.S. that have Honeywell’s Primus II avionics, and he says these fits are not behind schedule for customers who have acted in time. “I want to highlight the gravity of the situation in the U.S. and Europe with the lack of uptake. There could be 5,000 turbofan aircraft that don’t make the mandate. We have the equipment on the shelf now and the capacity but everyone thinks they can do it in 2019.” Stuck’s bottom line: book a slot by the end of 2018 or you will probably not get one before the mandate kicks in.

He pointed to a November study by Duncan Aviation with the FAA that estimated 6,000 turbine aircraft in the U.S. fleet still need to be updated to ADS-B to meet the mandate and it appeared 2,000 would not make the deadline due to maintenance capacity being issues. The study has since been updated and the total revised up to almost 10,000 aircraft, with 5,000 forecast not to be able to find a shop that can perform the upgrade in time.

“Unlike RVSM and EGPWS, there is no workaround for ADS-B,” said Stuck, who noted that the mandate lead time is far shorter for those programs in terms of the period from mandate issue date to compliance deadline.

“Everyone is going to try to get a slot in Q4 and find there are no slots left until 2021,” he warned. “It could be 2022 before you can get it done.” And adding to the crunch are all GA aircraft that need to use controlled airspace, and aircraft from Latin America and Canada that have to upgrade or won’t be able to enter U.S. airspace. “This will only serve to compound the situation.”

Stuck said that many operators he has spoken to seem unaware of the urgency, and believed it was something they didn’t have to worry about until 2020. “This is going to ripple through the aviation industry,” he said.

To a certain extent maintenance companies are ramping up their capabilities and creating mobile teams, in some cases. However, Stuck believes that they will not be keen to turn away other work from existing customers who are already ADS-B compliant just because there is a line of desperate customers.

Stuck also said there is a lack of awareness as to what’s involved. An aircraft will need between a week and three weeks in the shop, the cost ranging from $50,000 to $170,000, approximately. “The industry simply doesn’t have the capacity to perform all these upgrades in one year,” said Stuck.

Many operators, he said, are going for a basic WAAS GPS “brick” upgrade rather than a full WAAS FMS upgrade (costing more than $100,000). “The FMS upgrade is a two- to three-week event in itself,” said Stuck.

The standard for the ADS-B is DO260B (this is similar to the 260A that was mandated some years ago in Australia, but with WAAS capability added, the equivalent in Europe is EGNOS).

Stuck warned that the situation in Europe is “shaping up to resemble [that in] the U.S.” with the deadline for any aircraft with a transponder to be upgraded being June 5, 2020. “There will be a third of the fleet that doesn’t make the mandate,” he warned.