AOPA Fighting Canadian ADS-B Mandate


AOPA is diving into Canadian politics by supporting a call by aviation groups there to delay implementation of phased-in ADS-B mandates. Transport Canada intends to require aircraft to be equipped with ADS-B transponders and antennas capable of communicating with satellite-based transceivers and with ground-based systems. In 2023, anyone flying in controlled airspace above 12,500 feet will need the gear. As soon as 2026, the mandate will apply to almost all controlled airspace. AOPA says the mandate will affect U.S. operators because most don’t have the requisite “antenna diversity” that sends the transponder information up and down.

“This is a troubling precedent,” said Jim McClay, AOPA director of airspace, air traffic, and security. “This would constitute an equipage mandate for most US operators wanting to fly to Canada, most of whom have recently equipped to meet US requirements.” AOPA says it’s unlikely most light aircraft operators will replace or modify the systems they already installed at considerable expense so trips to Canada will be impossible. “Due to these concerns, AOPA is urging a delay of the Nav Canada equipage mandate until a determination can be made on the cost impact to purchase and install the required equipment and discussions on potential alternative solutions are held,” McClay said.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. A lot of American pilots probably don’t care about flying into Canada, but this would also impact any pilots thinking about flying to Alaska. There are numerous groups that do the long cross-country trip through western Canada to Alaska every summer.

    Sadly, Yars, I agree with you. Hopefully they would finally consider allowing us to ditch the basically worthless ELTs in the process.

  2. ADS-B is a safety enhancement; the entire world uses a different frequency than the unique low level US frequency; why did the US go a different way?
    Satellite ADS-B is the way to go; wait a bit, and as another comment says; the US will go that way as well.
    Yes; the mandate will cost me money, but having traffic in the cockpit, and seeing other traffic is priceless; decades in a jet cockpit with actual saves makes it very real!

    • ADS-B was developed in the US to address areas of sparse RADAR coverage. The original project was called Capstone. It was used primarily in Alaska but also to serve some of the Gulf oil platforms where helicopters were below RADAR coverage much of the time.

      The original Capstone protocol was very well designed and ran on 978MHz. It does an excellent job of not only allowing Aircraft-to-aircraft transmissions, but also aircraft-to-ground, and ground-to-aircraft. That is why it was chosen for the FIS-B (weather/RADAR) uplink.

      The fly-in-the-ointment is TCAS. TCAS is mandated by law for transport aircraft so it MUST be present. TCAS runs on 1090MHz so some bright person (bright is actually spelled I-D-I-O-T) got the idea to put ADS-B on 1090 because that equipment was already installed in transport aircraft. Ah, but the devil is in the details and ended up requiring a change to the equipment in transport aircraft to allow for longer messages in the Mode-S transponders. This “extended squitter” (ES) is required to send the ADS-B position messages. Once they did that they ended up with TWO parallel, incompatible systems, one well-designed (Capstone UAT, 978MHz), and one badly hacked together (1090ES). Of course, as with most situation where you have competing systems, the worse system is chosen for political reasons. The ICAO, not known for its technical prowess, went with 1090ES as the “standard”. Now you know how we got here.

      Now suddenly people in other parts of the world realized that to build a ground network like the US has would cost a LOT of money so maybe they could use some satellites instead of a ground network. It would be much cheaper for the various governments (zero in many cases). Is it too much to ask airliners to add extra hardware, cables, and antennas to allow their signals to be transmitted to satellites as well as ground stations and other aircraft? After all, the airlines are rich, right?

      General Aviation? General Aviation? We don’t need no steenkin’ General Aviation!

      By the way, uAvionix had a good and sneaky idea. Put the antenna on the tail and give it a radiation pattern that goes up as well as down. No diversity hardware needed. I keep waiting for one of the antenna manufacturers (RAMI, D&M, etc.) to make a tail-mounted transponder antenna to do what uAvionix did with their Tailbecacon. Heck guys, team up with Whelan and create an LED-tail-light-strobe-transponder-antenna device. That could be done for well under $1000. They’ll sell a lot faster than an $8000 diversity ADS-B/transponder box from Garmin.

      Aw, what do I know.

      • My understanding is also that 978Mhz was picked (or rather, anything not 1090Mhz) because with the population of aircraft in the US, 1090Mhz would have become saturated (because ADS-B is always transmitting, not waiting to be interrogated). With fewer aircraft flying in most of the rest of the world, that wasn’t going to be the same issue.

        But as it turned out, a lot of US aircraft got dual-frequency boxes, so they’re effectively using both frequencies. I don’t know how that affects the frequency saturation issue, or if that even was actually an issue, though.

        • Don’t mix up the transmitting frequency (“out”) with the receiving frequencies (“in”). When you state that a lot of U.S. aircraft got dual-frequency boxes that 978Mhz +1090Mhz combo only applies to the “in” part. The frequency saturation issue, if any, would only be applicable to the single “out” frequency chosen, not the “in”. If the “in” frequencies mattered it would be like saying the more television antennas on the roof tops of apartments in a city the more frequency saturation. ADS-B ground stations and aircraft rebroadcasting of data could care less how many airplanes are receiving that signal (just like a TV station’s transmitter broadcasts in the blind). And as for “out” data transmitted by the approved onboard aircraft ADS-B equipment the FAA does not allow both frequencies to be used for transmitting from a single aircraft. FAA specifically states not to have two “out” transmitters onboard. It’s a pick one or the other “out” frequency and stick to it. So an aircraft either transmits on 978Mhz or 1090Mhz but should never legally have both.

    • “Yes; the mandate will cost me money, but having traffic in the cockpit, and seeing other traffic is priceless…”

      While it’s nice to see SOME, maybe MOST traffic, ADSB won’t show ALL traffic unless and until all aircraft (those with electrical systems, and those without) are appropriately equipped. That would mean all lighter than air, and both new and antique aircraft that were never electrified, ultra-lights, drones, etc. etc. etc. would continue to be invisible to any gadget filled panel.

      As far as reliable signal goes… I don’t suppose sat based navigation equipment will fare well if either of our peaceful friends in the far west or far east (both across the big waters) decide it’d be a hinderance for the Western world to lose ADSB and other stat based tools.

    • Your statement is not 100% accurate. The US uses BOTH 1090 and 978 frequencies. Why? Because of the frequency congestion due to traffic volume. The 1090 frequency is not solely used by ADS-B.

      I don’t necessarily disagree with your safety statement because ADS-B is more accurate than radar. In the event of an accident, more accurate data is available.

  3. Well, the initial motivation that I heard for the sat based ADS-B system was the sparse population of the northern parts of Canada where it is not cost effective to build/use ground based systems. That makes sense – generally ADS-B makes great sense and a personally really like the advantages it brings to pilots.

    There are a few wrinkles in that wonderful picture though …

    As anyone who has flown in Canada knows, you always get a bill for “ATC services” from Nav Canada – the private (for profit) company that operates all ATC facilities/services as the Canadian government “privatized” such things. Odd decision that given in a different area, healthcare, the government controls and limits costs to provide healthcare to everyone – a great thing. So, why profit from an industry that relies on ATC for safety? I’ve no idea.

    What makes it worse still is that Nav Canada is actually behind the sat service that will be used – yet another way to “profit” since they operate/use the satellites. Seems like the fox is definitely in the hen house …

    There’s also the amusing justification of sat ADS-B for scheduled transpacific/transatlantic flights based on such flights needing to climb less frequently. Nav Canada has some highly amusing and somewhat suspect slides showing amazing fuel savings (now also carbon footprint savings).

    Finally, there was an initial proposal that for any flight into Canada that stayed within 100KM or so of the border with the US, sat-based ADS-B would not be required as there are already ground stations and Canada needs the US flights to earn income … guess that proposal has gone the way of the Dodo …

    Good luck to the AOPA – it is going to be a very hard cliff to climb.

    • Being that California has more population than all of Canada, some things will work for them but not for the USA. We have 11 times their population and we are based on a “freedom” system, not authoritarian control. Personally I like “freedom”.

      • Amusingly your “freedom” system ATC is a government agency while the “authoritarian control” system ATC is private enterprise.

    • Plus one for proper scare quote usage. Nav Canada isn’t privatized any more than Canadian healthcare. At the end of the day, there is ALWAYS something the greedy people involved can be selfish about. If you have no choices, there’s really nothing private about it.
      Starting a few hundred years ago, there was a great sorting where most people who want more government went north or stayed in other countries while the freedom loving came here. Then, seeing how much wealth was created here, everyone started wanting in without regard as to why the wealth was being created. So we got the 16th Amendment and all the other things and it’s been downhill ever since.

  4. Not everything new should be resisted. Would be a leap forward in finding crashes. I’m in.

    • OTOH, the requirements for such avionics should be: it works, it doesn’t leak RF beyond its assigned freqs, the end.

  5. With all the info, both in and out that ADS-B provides, at the price it’s like damn stealing. I don’t know anything about the antenna issue, but ADS-B yes! I even had a battery powered one in my non electric Aeronca feeding my iPhone or iPad, both which had WingX which WingX was nice enough to provide CFIs for free.

    • Roger. You must be talking about an ADS-B receiver, not approved rule-compliant transmitter. Mainly because approved equipment is a transmitter and by itself will not give you any onboard data for any device or app. And since you have an Aeronca that has never had an engine-driven electrical system installed you can’t actually install approved equipment (ADS-B or UAT “out”) in your aircraft without risking a violation. This is due to the “always on” portion of the rule mandating that if an aircraft is equipped, the approved equipment must be on and operating at all times the aircraft is operated anywhere in the air or surface of the United States (not just rule airspace). This means your battery is going to eventually die on a long flight and even though your ADS-B system switch is still turned “on” because the battery failure will instantly flag the the ADS-B system that you are not in compliance. Non engine-driven electrical system aircraft are effectively regulated out of participating in the system making you an invisible target to all the new Amazon drones and pilotless VTOL commuter air taxis. I can empathize as I am a partner in a Luscombe 8A.

      • I believe your summary is incorrect, Jim. Aircraft without an electrical system are not required to have ADSB-out. No specification as to how that electrical system is powered. (and engine driven systems also are subject to failure so your reasoning is equally suspect.)

  6. Is the Canadian requirement for SAR or avoiding close contacts?

    Busy routes should have ground stations, they have radio repeaters to ATC.

    The Alaska Highway and the coastal route to the Panhandle must be busy, most of Alberta is busy, MB to the big bay and beyond probably is.

    What information was used to estimate position of the small airplane that went down near Lake Superior recently with two ferrying pilots? CTV says ‘radar and flight tracking technology’.

    (ELT did not work, if it had one.
    Very accurate position knowledge would help.
    Pilots presumed dead in the wreckage – I don’t have recent news, police should have reached site by now.
    Airplane found by intensive helicopter search, very difficult to spot from the air, it was only a few km from a highway beside Old Woman Bay.)

    Beware that is not the crash in Ontario of a similar airplane with gangsters on board.

  7. As much as I hate to say it, many of the comments here are woefully uninformed.

    The Canadian satellite-based ADSB mandate is a mandate for ADSB-OUT ONLY! There is NO plan to provide any kind of ADSB-IN service whatsoever. Zero, nada, zilch.

    Space-based ADSB in Canada is all about Nav Canada getting better information to provide ATC services while avoiding the cost of installing any ground-based infrastructure. It’s all stick and no carrot. There is no benefit to the average GA user.

    Nav Canada talks about aviation safety and yet has no plans to provide aviators in Canada with information critical to flight safety – weather and traffic. Flying in the more remote areas of Canada it’s nigh-on impossible to get weather information if one is down low like most of we VFR pilots are. And yet Nav Canada intentionally invested in the design and purchase of a space-based ADSB system which has zero capability to provide safety-enhancing services.

    Nav Canada needs to feel some serious push-back on their ADSB plans. Yes, space-based ADSB services make sense. No, forcing ADSB equipage without providing ADSB-IN services does NOT make sense. No, forcing ADSB equipage based on an aging Diversity standard does not make sense. What DOES make sense is the same form of performance demonstration that we see in the US. Equip, do the test flight, get data back from the satellites to confirm they can see your airplane. That works. Forcing a diversity installation is ludicrous.

    Also note that Nav Canada deployed space-based ADSB without sufficient hardware to provide a solid enough RF link margin to assure continued service should a satellite drop out. Adding more satellites would improve the link margins to the point where service would be assured in the event of satellite loss AND there would be sufficient capacity to allow the use of belly-mounted antennas rather than a Diversity installation.

    Nav Canada is not a friend to General Aviation. They should be renamed “Nav Air Canada and West Jet” as they only care about their airline customers. We little guys are just a nuisance. The emergence of this onerous ADSB standard is proof they don’t have either a clue nor a care about General Aviation.

  8. The Canadians always have the initiative to find ways to tax, tax, tax. Having said that, up here in Northern Idaho and Montana Ground Based ADSB is pretty limited until you get to about 6000Feet. I have the Appareo ESG and it always says Marginal. It would seem the MGF’s would have the ability to provide an “Add on” mod for dual antenna. But NO, they want to sell us a new one. Space based is better. I am sure it will come to the US.

  9. Just the price we pay for being first. Pay Elon to start incorporating ADS-B relay receivers to his little birds & they can feed it into the Internet. Zingo, worldwide coverage and the multiple low-angle reception pathways won’t care if the antenna isn’t on top.

  10. You write, “Transport Canada intends to require…” ADS-B transponders. But the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA) has been objecting that it is Nav Canada which is announcing the requirement. But NavCanada apparently does not have the authority to issue this kind of mandate, only Transport Canada does. Has that regulatory mismatch been cleared up? It seems like this would be a relevant part of the story to include.

    For more on COPA’s advocacy about the ADS-B mandate, see copanational dot org /advocacy-updates/ , and search for “ADS-B MANDATE IN CANADA”. (Why can’t COPA have separate URLs for each advocacy issue? Sigh.)

    • Thanks.

      Denso COPA web weenies do not provide a Search function, but you can just scroll down until you see the subject with a long paragraph.

      After that paragraph is an old pitch about using space-based ADS-B OUT as a substitute for 406ELTs, including statistics on when ELT was effective and reasons when not.

  11. We don’t need transponders either… or radios… or lights… why did we ever put engines on things with wings. Yea, it is all very silly. Air Route Control Facilities… are they really needed? Why is someone always telling me what I can or can’t do in the air?

    Yea, that is how dumb fighting ADS-B really is…
    I’m sure most people thought the Wright Brothers were nuts too for putting an engine on a glider with wings…

  12. 1-NavCanada has the majority ownership in Aireon. Aireon’s other shareholders are becoming increasingly unhappy with the lack of return on investment. So…NavCanada is pushing the equipage issue onto users so they can “claim” they are increasing the usage of space-based ADS-B. #propaganda
    2-Space-based ADS-B is a REDUNDANT source of surveillance for NavCanada in MOST areas. NavCanada will see no operational gain, which means users see no gain. BUT…they still force equipage. follow the money.

    It’s time to get educated folks. Get off the bandwagon and educate yourselves.