May 6, 2019 | AOPA Online

As of today, fewer than 1,000 Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) Out rebate reservations remain available from the FAA. Because aircraft owners are reserving rebates at an average rate of 60 to 100 per day, the available rebates could be exhausted in two weeks—or sooner. Any aircraft owner who wants to claim a rebate and has not yet done so should make a reservation now.

Satellite-based navigation is becoming the norm.Satellite-based navigation is becoming the norm. iStock photo.

ADS-B uses GPS satellites instead of ground-based radar to determine aircraft location, and is a key technology behind the FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation System. The FAA has mandated ADS-B Out for flights after Jan. 1, 2020, in airspace where a transponder is required today. To help encourage equipage, the FAA launched a rebate program Sept. 19, 2016, and when it expired 12 months later, only about 10,200 of 20,000 available rebates had been claimed. The current program opened Oct. 12, 2018, in an effort to award the 9,792 remaining rebates. It follows the same rules and procedures and is available to owners of fixed-wing, single-engine piston aircraft first registered before Jan. 1, 2016. Twins, helicopters, and turbine-powered airplanes are not eligible—but experimental and light sport aircraft are, if TSOed hardware is installed.


Aircraft do not have to equip if they don’t operate in the airspace where ADS-B Out will be required, defined by 14 CFR 91.225. In the 48 contiguous states, ADS-B Out will be required for flights in all Class A, B, and C airspace; Class E airspace at or above 10,000 feet msl, excluding the airspace at and below 2,500 feet agl; within 30 nautical miles of a Class B primary airport (the Mode C veil); above the ceiling and within the lateral boundaries of Class B or Class C airspace up to 10,000 feet; and in Class E airspace over the Gulf of Mexico, at and above 3,000 feet msl, within 12 nm of the U.S. coast. Except for the Gulf of Mexico airspace, this essentially is where a Mode C transponder is required today.


Pilots who fly—especially under instrument flight rules—to airports near ADS-B airspace should be particularly concerned about equipping, said Rune Duke, AOPA senior director of government affairs for airspace, air traffic, and aviation security. Vectors assigned by air traffic control, or published instrument approaches, could force nonequipped aircraft into ADS-B airspace—and the rules do not provide a “get out of jail free” card in such scenarios.

“It is clear talking to folks here in Anchorage that pilots didn’t realize Merrill Field IFR ops will require ADS-B,” said Duke, who was in Alaska for the Alaska Airmen Association’s 2019 Great Alaska Aviation Gathering. Merrill Field’s only IFR approach, the RNAV (GPS)-A, passes through Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport’s Class C airspace.

To make a reservation, go to the FAA website. You must select an installation date no more than 90 days in the future—we recommend selecting the maximum 90 days, to provide the most options in case of complications. The site will ask you to select the ADS-B equipment you plan to install, but this is not binding—you can install any TSOed equipment, regardless of what you indicate during the reservation process. When the installation date passes, the owner has 60 days to finish the installation and successfully complete a performance validation flight; selecting the latest available “installation date” affords a total of 150 days to complete the process.

Validation requires flying for at least 30 minutes in 14 CFR 91.225 rule airspace. For most of us, this means within or above Class C airspace; within the 30-nm Mode C veil around a Class B primary airport; or above 10,000 feet msl. (In Alaska, Guam, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico, flying above 10,000 feet msl and within FAA ADS-B ground station coverage meets the rebate requirement.)

Here are some tips for a successful validation flight:

  • Move the aircraft clear of any hangars or other obstructions before starting, so its antennas have a clear view of the GPS satellite constellation. Starting between hangar rows can delay satellite acquisition.
  • Turn your transponder to Alt as soon as you power up your avionics—don’t wait until just before takeoff. (If you don’t believe me, read the operating manual or handbook for your new hardware.) Wait at least two minutes before moving the aircraft, to assure that the GPS has acquired enough satellites.
  • Taxi slowly to the runway. Take off, climb, and perform some normal maneuvers. Turns should be no more than standard rate. Avoid steep turns and aerobatics. Fly for at least 30 minutes in 14 CFR 91.225 rule airspace.
  • After a normal pattern and landing, come to a brief but complete stop on the runway. Then, taxi slowly to the ramp or your hangar and shut down.
  • Wait at least half an hour before requesting your performance report through the link on the rebate program page—an hour is better. You should receive a Public ADS-B Performance Report (PAPR) by email within 10 minutes and if there are no problems, it should be accompanied by a GAIRS Code. Enter it, and your rebate reservation code, on the FAA rebate website to claim your rebate.
  • If you do fail, consult the PAPR User Guide. Email the FAA’s ADS-B rebate help desk and request a review of your flight before taking further action.

Duke said aircraft owners pursuing rebates should understand and follow the time limits set forth in the rebate rules. “The FAA is limiting the number of extensions they are approving, and only under limited circumstances,” he said. “If the rebate expires without being claimed, the owner will need to apply for a new rebate, but the risk is none will be left.”

Aircraft not equipped with operational ADS-B Out can request deviations from 14 CFR 91.225, for limited access to ADS-B rule airspace. An authorization must be requested at least one hour in advance, through a website that the FAA is now developing. Controllers cannot grant authorizations to unequipped aircraft over the radio or by telephone. However, if ADS-B Out equipment fails in flight, controllers will be able to issue an airspace authorization to an airborne aircraft.