NBAA Convention News

Florida Jet Center Finishes First ADS-B upgrade on Learjet 55

 - October 11, 2018, 1:00 PM

Terry Robertson, president of Florida Jet Center (Booth 4005), is confident that he’s found an ADS-B In/Out solution that works—practically and financially—for Bombardier Learjet 35, 55, and 60 models. With nearly 35 years of experience in his Fort Lauderdale-based Part 145 FAA maintenance facility to back him up, Robertson, is an A&P with Inspection Authorization and Learjet-typed pilot with more than 20,000 hours.

“We have just finished test flights on our first installation, a Learjet 55 on which we installed the Gables control head with the Garmin transponder and an Apple iPad to display ADS-B In information. The airplane, with its new avionics, performed beautifully,” Robertson told AIN. “I’ve got a couple more proposals in the pipeline, and I expect, after three days here at NBAA 2018, to walk away with three to five more customers,” he continued.

It was only late last year that manufacturers such as Garmin began stepping up with new approved model list supplemental type certificates (AML-STCs) that are moving the industry closer to real solutions for total ADS-B equipage by the 2020 deadline.

Florida Jet Center offers Learjet 35, 55, and 60 owners with existing TCAS I and TCAS II a variety of ADS-B solutions ranging in cost from nearly $60,000 to around $80,000. “On a TCAS I-equipped airplane. the STC and modifications take about a week to complete,” Robertson explained. “TCAS II airplanes are more complicated, and so, more costly in time to install, and of course, price.”

For non-TCAS II-equipped aircraft, the Garmin GTX 345R and GTX 335R series of remote-mount ADS-B transponders offers 1090 MHz ADS-B Out. Grables cockpit controllers are added, and if a rule-compliant position source is needed, both GTX transponders are optionally available with a built-in WAAS GPS receiver. The GTX 345R with the Garmin Connext link can wirelessly stream the 978 MHz ADS-B In weather and traffic to the iPads that the crews are using with Garmin Pilot, FltPlan Go, and Foreflight apps. Additionally, spoken audio alerts from the GTX 345R also call out potential flight path conflicts (“Traffic, 10 o’clock, same altitude, 2 miles”) to get pilots looking in the right direction.

Robertson is excited about the potential new life he sees for airplanes such as the Learjet 35, 55, and 60 through these AML-STCs. “These airplanes, particularly the Lear 35 and 55, are the workhorses of the air-ambulance fleet, and Bombardier has not been good about supporting them as an OEM,” he said. Robertson, one of the largest distributors of aftermarket Learjet parts in the country, should know. “I’m parting out three Lear 60s right now, and I’ll buy any Lear 55,” he continued. “Bombardier seems to be wanting to just sell people new airplanes as the solution to the ADS-B problem. The company wants to sell you a Lear 70 or 75 for $13 to $18 million,” he said. “It feels like I have that conversation with owners and operators constantly.”