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May 2015   Editorial

Lowering the cost of ADS-B

If you’ve been following the discussions around the FAA’s 2020 mandate for aircraft
to equip with ADS-B Out, then you know that AOPA has made lowering the cost to
comply a top priority.
For tens of thousands of aircraft owners, particularly those who may own older
airplanes valued at $40,000 or less, the price to equip has been a major sticking
point. Many of these aircraft owners simply can’t justify spending 15 percent or more
of the value of their airplane to install ADS-B Out equipment just so they can continue
to use the airspace where they already fly.  I’ve heard from many of these owners
and AOPA members who tell me they’ll have to sell or ground their aircraft if we can’t
come up with a more cost-effective way for them to participate in ADS-B.
We’ve raised the issue with the FAA and with equipment manufacturers in public
forums. We’ve made it a key discussion point at Equip 2020 meetings where the
aviation community and the FAA are working collaboratively to address obstacles to
meeting the mandate. We joined forces with 13 other aviation organizations to lay our
concerns before the FAA administrator. We’ve held individual meetings with
manufacturers to discuss the barriers and opportunities for more affordable solutions.
And we’re hosting a meeting of equipment manufacturers at Sun ‘n Fun to find even
more ways we can work together to lower costs.
The good news is that both the FAA and manufacturers have heard our concerns,
and the first significantly lower cost ADS-B Out package has been announced at a
price about half that of the lowest cost solution previously available. I’ve also spoken
with several other manufacturers who say they’ve got lower cost offerings in the
works, too.
I’m pleased that our efforts are getting results, and that equipment manufacturers
have been so responsive to the needs of their customers.
And there may be other ways to help keep costs down, too. A&P mechanics can
install ADS-B equipment with the proper training and an inspection authorization (IA)
signoff. That has the potential to be a real money saver for owners, especially if it’s
done during an annual inspection.
We’ll also be installing a variety of ADS-B solutions in our own AOPA aircraft in the
coming months, and we’ll share those experiences, including information about the
cost and installation complexity, so you can learn right along with us.
ADS-B is here to stay, and we want everyone to benefit. That’s why we’ll keep doing
everything in our power to make sure every segment of the GA fleet can participate.