Shop Survey: ADS-B Driving Avionics Sales

March 19, 2019  |  AVweb

Last month, the Aircraft Electronics Association reported a 17.6% bump in overall avionics sales. And while a good portion of that gain was attributed to a generally stronger new-airplane market, the bulk was pegged on the looming deadline for ADS-B Out equipage.

That sounds plausible enough, but we decided to see what’s really happening down on the shop floor. So, is ADS-B really a big driver at the retrofit level?

“Yes, absolutely,” says Matt Schloss, sales manager at Gulf Coast Avionics. “I talk to customers every day, some of them I’ve been talking to for years, and for just about all of them the desire to get ADS-B on board is their motivator.”

It’s much the same story at Sarasota Avionics, says their repair station coordinator, Monica Gualandri. “There’s not a single project I have that doesn’t involve an ADS-B installation, unless it was someone I saw in the last year or two who has already had it done,” she says. ADS-B is “the first domino to fall for these new customers, but ADS-B also is driving a lot of other purchases, up to full panel restorations.”

Both Gualandri and Schloss point out that while ADS-B is definitely getting owners in the door, there are other incentives for upgrading now. “I’m seeing a lot of activity with the newer autopilots,” says Schloss. “It’s mostly aircraft replacing older Century and Cessna autopilots with newer Garmin and S-TEC options,” he says.

For owners of certified aircraft, the necessity of equipping with ADS-B appears to be just the economic lubricant needed to justify other upgrades, from new autopilots to EFIS units replacing analog units, and as far as whole panel re-dos.

ADS-B In has also become a popular option, with many owners who originally considered just the minimum ADS-B Out as the end point now opting for the weather and traffic features of ADS-B In.

We also talked to Stein Bruch of Steinair, whose business is primarily in the experimental market. He had a slightly different take. “We’re busier than ever, but I’m not sure ADS-B accounts for all of it. I’d say no more than 20% of my recent business has been core ADS-B. What’s really driving our sales and installations are upgrades and retrofits. I’d say the experimental guys are ahead of the certified owners in terms of planning and installation. We’ve sold a ton of Garmin’s GDL 82 and I know that many owners and builders are taking advantage of the annual condition inspection to install their own gear.”

Definitely the affordability of the recent offerings has helped. Says Bruch, “Right now I get at least a call a day from owners of certified aircraft asking about ADS-B retrofits, and the fact that there are lower cost alternatives is helping. When the buy-in was thought to be $5,000 to $10,000, I think a lot of the owners just planned not to equip. But now I’m getting queries from a part of the market that I hadn’t heard from. I also think a lot of these owners just assumed the deadline would get pushed out past 2020.”

If you’re still on the fence, be aware that you’re not going to be alone when you decide to take the plunge. “Backorders on product are becoming a thing,” says Sarasota’s Gualandri. It’s not a huge problem so far, but as demand increases she says to expect stock to become more scarce.

The other issue is installer availability. “Typically, a basic transponder-based ADS-B installation takes a week, but I do have customers who seem to want it right away,” says Gualandri, who points out that Sarasota is booked at least a month out. It’s much the same at Gulf Coast, which is currently booked out to mid/late summer.

Bottom line: Yes, ADS-B installs are driving measurable business to avionics shops, and it’s turning out to be revenue that extends far beyond equipment just to meet the Jan. 1, 2020 mandate.