Living with ADS-B

Chris Martino 2020 Winter

Your questions about the new FAA regulation answered.

It’s 2020, and the Jan. 1 ADS-B implementation date we’ve been talking about since 2010 has finally come and gone.

I know what you may be thinking: “not another ADS-B article.” Well, it’s not my intention to lay out another history of ADS-B or describe what you need to equip. There are countless articles and website resources about those topics (see, for example, from Fall 2018 ROTOR, “ADS-B: It’s Crunch Time,” bit.ly/2Qa6a1U).

But if you’re like many members who’ve contacted HAI, you may still have questions about the new rule. Let’s try to address the most common ones here.

What if I fly through ADS-B Out rule airspace without the proper equipment?

I can’t speak for the FAA, but I suspect that if you fly without the proper equipment, you’ll have to answer to someone at the agency and that some type of enforcement action will certainly be a potential outcome. However, if you didn’t willfully violate the new regulation, the FAA might choose to issue you a compliance action instead. Under the FAA’s Compliance Program and the just culture that underlies it, you may be able to avoid being assessed a violation by agreeing to the terms of the compliance action, such as completing retraining or counseling, perhaps at some cost to you. (See a related story from Fall 2018 ROTOR, “After the Violation of an FAR,” bit.ly/FARViolation.)

What if I need to operate in an area covered by ADS-B Out but I don’t have the equipment installed or it’s inoperative?

You may be able to get an exception from the FAA, called a deviation, to operate without ADS-B equipment under certain conditions and at certain times of day. To learn more about deviations and how to request one, check out the FAA’s Statement of Policy for Authorizations to Operators of Aircraft that are Not Equipped with Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast Out Equipment (bit.ly/FAA_Policy). This document, published in April 2019, does a very good job of clearly explaining the policy and laying out much of its background.

The FAA’s authority to grant ADS-B Out deviations is described under Title 14 CFR 91.225(g), which states that deviation requests must be made to the “ATC [air traffic control] facility having jurisdiction over the concerned airspace.” Section 91.255(g) also specifies a couple of submission time lines based on your circumstances.

The first time line is for aircraft with inoperative ADS-B Out equipment: you’ve installed it on your aircraft, but for some reason it’s not working that day. In those situations, for operation “to the airport of ultimate destination, including any intermediate stops, or to proceed to a place where suitable repairs can be made or both, the request may be made at any time.”

The second time line applies to aircraft that aren’t equipped with ADS-B Out capability. A deviation to operate an unequipped aircraft may be requested but must be made at least one hour “before the proposed operation.” Also, these requests may not be submitted more than 24 hours prior to the proposed flight.

How do I submit a request for deviation?

The tool established by the FAA that allows you to make deviation requests is the ADS-B Deviation Authorization Pre-Flight Tool (ADAPT). The tool is Web-based and can be found on the FAA’s website at faa.gov/nextgen/equipadsb/adapt.

All civil aircraft operators can use ADAPT, but the design of the tool was based on the projected needs of Part 91 operators. What this means is that the tool can be used by, for example, a Part 135 operator, but it’s not intended for routine or otherwise scheduled operations. The FAA has very clearly stated that ADAPT wasn’t designed to enable operators to skirt ADS-B Out requirements.

This all sounds complicated. How does ADAPT work?

It’s really not so bad. When you enter ADAPT, your first step will be to input your flight information in the Flight Information Entry section of the tool. You’ll recognize the section, as it looks very much like the old FAA flight plan we used for years.

The information you enter will be used in an initial analysis to determine whether you even need a deviation. If it’s determined that you do, you’ll be directed to the next Web page, where you’ll enter additional details about your intended flight before you submit your request to the FAA for consideration.

One important note: you must make sure the email address you provide is correct. That’s critical because the FAA’s official approval of your request will be delivered ONLY to that email address.

What should I expect to hear back from the FAA?

Once you’ve submitted your deviation request, you’ll get one of three responses from the FAA: approved, denied, or pending.

For an approved request, you’ll receive an email that provides the approval, plain and simple. Make sure you keep this correspondence, as it’s the official record of the request and approval.

If you receive a denied response, it simply means the flight couldn’t be approved as requested. Unfortunately, the FAA won’t be able to specify in the notice exactly why your request was denied. It may be possible to gain approval of the deviation by resubmitting your request using a different flight route, time of flight, and so on, that may be acceptable to the ATC facility with approval authority. In other circumstances, such as an inoperative transponder with altitude encoding (which should be installed for an ADAPT approval), the system may automatically deny the request every time.

Finally, if you receive a pending response, it’s just letting you know that some degree of manual review is necessary on the FAA’s part. This could be for several reasons. The bottom line for the submitter is that it will just take a little more time to receive a more definitive response.

It’s also important to note that ADAPT has been in development for quite some time, and the FAA smartly leveraged several industry professionals and associations to build and test an effective tool and to ensure its smooth launch. Our industry was an active participant in the development of the ADAPT program, a testament to the FAA’s continued commitment to sustaining strong partnerships with the aviation community. Finally, if you have ideas for improving the system, the agency has a feedback tool on its website.

What resources does the FAA have that could help me better understand and comply with ADS-B Out?

The ADAPT website offers several resources to walk you through the submission process, including a tutorial video and a user guide. In addition, the agency has assumed a very proactive outreach position, making itself available to answer questions and closely partnering with aviation groups. You’ll also see FAA ADS-B representatives at aviation industry events.

The point is, there are several great resources to help you through your ADS-B transition, and I highly recommend you familiarize yourself with them. At HAI, we’ve learned that the more you work with regulatory issues, the less complex they become. I think you’ll find the same to be true of ADAPT.

Additional Resources

From the FAA

From ROTOR magazine

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