This Is The Last Blog On ADS-B
An expert is a person who knows more and more about less and less until he knows everything about nothing. By that definition, I am an expert. As an expert, I am hereby declaring that this blog is absolutely the last thing I will ever write about ADS-B. As God is my witness, I will never put those letters together again unless I am describing an AD that morphed into an SB or I’m referring to the ads to be found in column B.
It’s not because I’m so sick of the subject that I’m contemplating drinking myself into a weeklong stupor, although I am. Nor is it because I think you probably already know all you will ever need to know about ADS-B, although you probably do. And it’s not because I think the whole idea has a pretty good shot of collapsing in scandal in 2019, although I think that it does. It’s because as an expert, I realize that any advice I could possibly convey to you on this subject has the equivalent value of Cactus Jack Garner’s opinion of the vice presidency.
A mere month ago, I allowed as how people complaining about the ADS-B mandate should just suck it up and put the equipment in, enjoying both the benefits of ADS-B In and the pleasure of not worrying about it anymore. After I clapped eyes on uAvionix’s SkyBeacon at AirVenture, I instantly realized how … ummm …. hollow that advice was. I knew uAvionix had something in the works but (a) I didn’t think it would mature enough technically to make a difference and (b) I thought it would still require a couple of grand to install it. Wrong on both counts, at least if the company gains approvals to get this thing on the fast track. And with the FAA desperate to get ADS-B equipage going, can we all hope that someone in the bureaucracy will see a winner in this product and champion its slither through the regulatory maze?
The instant I saw the SkyBeacon, I couldn’t help but think two things: Some people who have just installed what they thought was the lowest-priced ADS-B are going to be a little pissed and now I think anyone shopping on price—and I realize that’s not everyone—might rationally wait to see where this product is going. Not to mention others in the pipeline that we don’t know about. I’ve been told that the $500 ADS-B transceiver is a pipe dream, but as an expert, I also thought $3000 installed was about the floor. Well, things change; stuff happens. I’m not so sure more stuff isn’t going to happen so if I was a skinflint owner, I think I’d be waiting around to see if it does.
It also occurs to me that the entire ADS-B fiasco was almost designed to irritate aircraft owners, especially early adopters. The initial hardware was expensive to buy and install and it wasn’t obvious that it would evolve to more common-man prices. Avionics companies saw a bonanza and planned accordingly, only to be struck by the reality that owners were unimpressed with a government edict requiring them to buy these products. The evolution toward less expensive equipment wasn’t visible, least of all by the FAA and perhaps not even within the avionics industry because no one was pulling us aside to say, off the record, that cheaper stuff is on the way, don’t buy yet. Why would they? Discouraging sales of high-margin products in anticipation of cheaper ones would be irrational for a seller.
The above advice probably has the heft of a fart in a whirlwind, but I feel it my duty to reel in the dead fish I’ve personally hooked before they rot too badly. I’m sure at some point, I’ll be delivered to the NextGen Gulag and reeducated so I can resume a career of prattling on about ADS-B, as though this shattering realization never happened and I always had that glazed, empty look in my eyes.
But for a few glittery moments, I’m going clear.