ADS-B Opt Out – Stay low and go!

Many aircraft owners and pilots are fretting about the looming mandate to equip with Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast Out and for good reason—equipping is expensive. The requirement to be ADS-B Out compliant after Jan. 1, 2020, to fly in certain airspace will undoubtedly impact many pilots. Nevertheless, in my view, the sky is not falling, it’s just shrinking.   

The pacing regulation is 14 CFR 91.225. It basically says that unless otherwise authorized by ATC, no person may operate an aircraft in Class A, Class B, Class C, and certain Class E airspace, or within 30 nautical miles of specifically designated airports (see Appendix D to Part 91), unless the aircraft is equipped with certain ADS-B Out equipment.   

The airspace affected by FAR 91.225 is similar to the airspace impacted by FAR 91.215 for transponder use, including an exception for aircraft that were not originally certificated with an electrical system or subsequently retrofitted and certified with an installed system. Qualifying nonelectric aircraft may operate within 30 miles of the Appendix D airports so long as they remain outside of Class B or C airspace and below the altitude of the ceiling of Class B or C airspace area designated for an airport or 10,000 feet msl, whichever is lower.   

As to the airspace restrictions for other aircraft without ADS-B Out, again, operators must avoid Class A, B, and C airspace and not operate within 30 nautical miles of an airport listed in Appendix D.  Also, pilots must not fly at or above 10,000 feet msl in Class E airspace, excluding the airspace at and below 2,500 feet above the surface (this is a carve-out for high altitude areas). Also, in Class E airspace, pilots must not fly at or above 3,000 feet over the Gulf of Mexico within 12 miles of the U.S. coastline.    

IFR operations will still be allowed for non-ADS-B equipped aircraft after Jan. 1, 2020, as long as operations are conducted outside the defined airspace. There may be some logistical and routing challenges ahead, but filing and flying IFR without ADS-B Out will be permitted in those areas.    

The equipage requirements for experimental aircraft and special light sport aircraft are unique. Experimental category aircraft and E-LSA aircraft don’t require the installation of FAA-approved ADS-B equipment. However, the equipment installed must meet the performance requirements of the ADS-B TSO (technical standard orders).  As for S-LSA aircraft, installations don’t require the use of FAA-certified equipment, but any alteration to install ADS-B must be authorized by the aircraft manufacturer or a person authorized by the FAA.    

Only time will tell how the FAA will enforce the ADS-B regulations come 2020. I suspect that it will be treated similar to the transponder regulation now in effect. The sanction suspension range for operating without required instruments and/or equipment is 30 to 90 days.  

The compliance clock is ticking. Many owners are making the decision to equip with ADS-B Out. Good for them. For others, though, who are struggling with the cost component or other considerations, doing nothing is an option—just be sure to avoid the affected airspace after Jan. 1, 2020.  

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