FAA: ADS-B 2020 Deadline Won't Change

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In testimony regarding the progress of NextGen before the Senate Subcommittee on Aviation, FAA Deputy Administrator Michael G. Whitaker said unequivocally that the 2020 deadline for installation of mandated ADS-B equipment in general aviation aircraft is hard and fast. There had been rumors within the industry that the FAA was going to let the deadline date slip. Apparently desiring to put a stop to the rumor mill, Whitaker stated during his June 25 testimony, “Let me be very clear. The 2020 deadline is not going to change. We are in a position to achieve this important milestone on time. The cost of equipment has come down considerably. There is sufficient maintenance capacity to allow all equipage to occur—in fact, waiting to equip might cost more if aircraft owners crowd repair stations to get the work done on the eve of the deadline.”

Whitaker has been the FAA’s Chief NextGen Officer for over a year. In his remarks to the Subcommittee, he pointed out that one of the crucial foundational elements of NextGen has been completed—the installation of the ground infrastructure for ADS-B—necessary for the transition from a ground-based radar system to satellite-based GPS technology. He pointed out that the equipment is already improving search-and-rescue operations for downed aircraft due to better information on an aircraft’s last position. Whitaker also said that the FAA is close to completing the software and hardware upgrades to the high altitude air traffic centers. The upgrades are expected to be completed next spring—at which point the legacy system will be decommissioned. Similar system upgrades in TRACONs are on track and expected to be completed in the major TRACONs by 2016, according to Whitaker’s testimony.