FAA Final Rule on ADS-B: "High Equipage Costs With Little Benefit" for GA

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The FAA has published its final rule on NextGen airspace powered by ADS-B — and what that will cost GA operators. Following is the complete text of section II.Z.8 of the document:

General Aviation: High Equipage Costs With Little Benefit

In the proposal, the FAA estimated that the total cost to equip GA aircraft from 2012 through 2035 would range from $1.2 billion to about $4.5 billion with a mid-point average of nearly $2.9 billion.1 Although the FAA did not specifically estimate GA benefits in the NPRM, the agency now estimates that GA could receive up to $200 million in ADS–B Out benefits.

Numerous commenters, including AOPA and EAA, expressed concern that the proposed rule would require GA operators to add costly equipment to their aircraft, while providing these operators with few benefits. GAMA noted that many of the benefits for GA operators exist with ADS–B In. Several of the commenters noted that GA aircraft do not substantially contribute to delays or congestion in the NAS. They further stated that if ADS–B lessens traffic delays, it will benefit the airlines rather than the GA community. AOPA recommended that the FAA work with key stakeholders to identify a strategy that either removes low-altitude airspace users from the proposal or greatly improves the benefits for them.

The FAA considered three options to resolve the GA cost benefit comments. First, the FAA considered modifying performance requirements to reduce equipage costs. Second, the FAA evaluated options to provide additional benefits to GA operators.

Third, the FAA explored tailoring the rule such that fewer GA operators would be affected.

For the first option, the FAA determined that opportunities do exist for reducing the equipage costs for GA operators. In the rule, the FAA bases the performance requirements solely on ATC separation services; whereas in the proposal, the performance requirements were based on ATC separation services and five initial ADS-B In applications. This change eliminated the need for ADS-B antenna diversity because the ATC separation services can operate effectively without it and the ADS-B Out benefits can be achieved. Multiple commenters and the ARC felt that removing antenna diversity would help make the rule cheaper to implement for light general aviation operators.

For the second option, using comments received by the GA community, the FAA has identified opportunities to provide additional benefits to GA operators by expanding ADS-B services throughout the NAS to areas not currently serviced. Thus, outside of this rulemaking effort, the FAA intends to explore the costs and benefits for the following ADS-B enabled service expansions:

  1. Expanding low altitude surveillance coverage, both in areas receiving increased collateral coverage from the initial ADS-B ground station infrastructure and in areas that could benefit from additional ground station coverage.
  2. Providing radar-like terminal ATC services at airports not currently served.
  3. Providing an automated mechanism for the closure of IFR flight plans based on the new technologies ability to detect an aircraft's arrival at its destination airport.
  4. Making enhancements to current search and rescue technology and procedures that will assist rescue personnel in determining the last known location of aircraft that are reported missing.
  5. Providing Flight Service Stations (FSSs) with ADS-B positional display information and assisting in the development of automation systems that will allow for more tailored in flight service functions.

For the third option, the FAA looked at tailoring the ADS-B airspace such that the number of general aviation aircraft needing to equip would be minimized. Specifically the FAA considered limiting the rule to only Class A and B airspace. Although ADS-B surveillance is not as critical to the NexGen goals in lower density airspace, such as Class E airspace above 10,000 feet and Class C airspace, ADS-B equipage for all aircraft in these areas is essential to gaining the overall stated ADS-B benefits, realizing savings associated with radar decommissioning,2 the expansion of potential future benefits discussed above, and moving towards the NextGen concept of operations. Thus, the airspace subject to this rule remains unchanged.

  1. The FAA also calculated this midpoint to be $2.1 billion at a 3 percent present value or $1.5 billion at a 7 percent present value.
  2. The costs of radar will be about $1 billion less with ADS-B Out, although the total ground costs of ADS-B Out with the cost to sustain and decommission select radar will exceed the cost of continuing radar without implementing ADS-B.