By S.L. Fuller | September 21, 2017
Airbus Helicopters Inc. Certification Projects Manager William (Bill) Goebel said that on the path to the FAA’s 2020 ADS-B mandate, there are a few different timelines. During R&WI’s Rotorcraft Business & Technology Summit in Fort Worth, Texas, he explained that aircraft owners, avionics manufacturers, airframers and that FAA have different deadlines they need to meet for the U.S. fleet of helicopters to become compliant by the official ADS-B Out mandate effective date, Jan. 1, 2020.
As of mid-May, the FAA and its R&D support group at Mitre said only 1,249 of the 15,846 rotorcraft registered in the U.S. were equipped with ADS-B Out technology. One of the reasons for that small percentage, according to Goebel, could be that 2020 is too far in the future to be an urgent matter to owners and operators.
“Two years from now, I don’t know if I’m even going to own that aircraft,” he said. “I don’t know if I’m going to get a new aircraft.”
And at every trade show, Goebel continued, avionics OEMs and vendors exhibit new technology packages. It may be hard to make a decision and a significant monetary commitment to an ADS-B package now when the next trade show might have something that better fits an owner or operator’s needs.
The approach to equipping with ADS-B Out technology by the deadline is different, depending on the fleet size. But even for a fleet of 50 aircraft, Goebel said, the operator is going to plan in about a year.
Avionics manufacturers on the other hand, he continued, work backward. If the FAA’s mandate becomes effective Jan. 1, 2020, that avionics product has to be to market by summer of 2019, Goebel said. And if that’s going to be the case, the product needs to be certificated before that. That means the product has to be ready for the certification process by the end of 2018 or beginning of 2019.
“Now I’m into the end of 2018. What’s that mean?” Goebel said. “That means if I’m going to make any money selling these things, and we don’t make stuff unless we’re going to make a buck or two, that means I have to probably put my pencil down next spring.”
Because of that pencil down date, Goebel said the industry can expect the ADS-B offerings to stabilize by spring of 2018. Although that date is approaching, he said there’s no rush yet, as avionics manufacturers still have 3/4 of a year to think about. Now, they are probably in a review cycle.
Aircraft OEMs are also working backward, Goebel said. They have to have approved installations by summer of 2019, which means supplemental type certifications have to be completed by the beginning of 2019. That brings it back to the avionics OEMs, as the airframers would need to have the technology by the beginning of 2019 or end of 2018. Goebel said Airbus is equipping now, and has been for about a year.
This means that the FAA Aircraft Certification Offices (ACO) has to be even further along.
“To me, the message to the FAA ACO is Jan. 1, 2020 for you is now,” Goebel said. “In the next eight to 10 months, you’re going to have to get as much focus as you can so that these folks can get over the line in two years.”