Brussels signals U-turn on ADS-B equipage

The European Commission admits it will allow ‘reasonable, justified’ exemptions for ADS-B retrofits after previously ruling that all airspace users had to be compliant by 7 June 2020 in order to continue flying through European airspace.
Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast – ADS–B for short – is a surveillance technology in which an aircraft’s navigation systems determines its position using primarily satellite navigation and periodically broadcasts it, enabling it to be seen by air traffic control. As such it is viewed as a cornerstone technology as the international air traffic management industry transitions towards a space-based surveillance vision.
Despite this, both the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the US and the European Union have issued various mandates which have subsequently been either revised or postponed with Europe deciding in 2014 to delay the mandate for ADS-B Out equipage for aircraft that would need retrofitting until mid 2020.
The European Commission’s softening approach was confirmed at a July 4 workshop held in Brussels where an official said that while it will continue to hold airspace users to the 2020 mandate, it will support stakeholders to upgrade to the required surveillance technology.
A Single European ATM Research Agency Deployment Manager (SESAR DM) report that was published in May and which provides a snapshot of the ADS-B equipage landscape found that only a fifth of EU-registered short haul commercial air transport aircraft will meet EASA’s June 7, 2020 ADS-B mandate. As for long-haul aircraft, only 17 per cent of the fleet is equipped.

Data supplied by European airframer Airbus corroborated those findings, indicating that  DO-260B-compliant ADS-B transponder equipage across its in-service fleet in Europe stands currently at 20 per cent of short-haul aircraft with slightly less than a third of in-service Airbus A330s similarly equipped – although the vast majority of that fleet of long haul aircraft are subject to a planned retrofit programme.
The report noted that intercontinental long haul aircraft flying through US airspace will have to comply with the FAA mandate which requires all aircraft operating in the USA to be DO-260B compliant by an earlier deadline of January 2020.
“…for the medium/short haul fleet,” it added, “major airlines foresee difficulties to retrofit due to the high number of aircraft needed to be equipped in the short-term. The situation is very similar for the regional and business aviation according to the feedback received: generally, there are no plans to retrofit their fleet, with very few exceptions.”

It said that hopes that the Commission will offer a five-year transition period between 2020-2025 as well as further exemptions for aircraft retiring before 2025 – leading to another amendment of the regulation – is also leading to airlines delaying equipage decisions.
The European Regions Airline Association (ERA) said it welcomed the Commission’s decision to consider potential exemptions and a reasonable level of flexibility providing that stakeholders are able to demonstrate a willingness to comply.
“ERA is also encouraged by the Commission’s proposal to incentivise ADS-B retrofit through a yet to be determined financial mechanism,” it added.
The Commission is understood to be planning a short consultation campaign with the SESAR Deployment Manager, EASA and all relevant stakeholders, which is expected to be completed by the end of this year.
The FAA has meanwhile granted exemption although with a strict, limited timeframe in which operators must equip with new navigation receivers because the kind of GPS navigation receivers suitable for transport category aircraft that meet the ADS-B Out Rule requirements will not be available for purchase or installation in sufficient quantities until closer to 2020.
However the FAA will not exempt the requirement for ADS-B Out equipment to be installed and operational on aircraft flying in ADS-B rule airspace starting January 1, 2020 although will allow for the extended use of an older type of GPS navigation receiver already installed in some aircraft. All other ADS-B Out equipment requirements must still be met and operational by January 1, 2020. Exemption also imposes certain conditions, limitations and additional pre-flight responsibilities on the operators.
The US aviation authority said that operators seeking the relief provided under Exemption 12555 must notify the FAA of their intent to comply with the conditions and limitations of the exemption and must develop and submit an initial GPS position Source upgrade plan to the FAA no later than August 1, 2018 .