December 18, 2019
Requested by Chairman Bill Shuster and Frank LoBiondo of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and its Subcommittee on Aviation
NextGen Equipage: ADS-B Out Equipage Rates Are Increasing, but FAA Must Address Airspace Access Issues
What We Looked At
The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) is a multibillion-dollar transportation infrastructure project that requires airspace users to purchase and install new avionics on their aircraft. This includes Automatic Dependent Surveillance–Broadcast (ADS-B) Out, which FAA has mandated all operators who intend on flying in most controlled domestic airspace install by January 1, 2020. Citing concerns about whether operators will meet the 2020 deadline, the then-Chairmen of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and its Aviation Subcommittee requested that we provide information regarding equipage rates for ADS-B and other NextGen technologies on air carrier and general aviation aircraft. Accordingly, our audit objectives were to (1) determine the equipage rates for ADS-B and other NextGen-enabling technologies on commercial and general aviation aircraft, (2) ascertain the reasons behind aircraft operators’ decisions to equip or not equip with these technologies, and (3) assess FAA and aircraft operators’ plans to meet the 2020 ADS-B Out equipage deadline.
What We Found
We found that ADS-B Out equipage rates are increasing as the 2020 deadline approaches with other equipage rates varying depending on the NextGen technology. In addition, operators are installing ADS-B Out primarily due to the mandate but also consider financial and operational factors when equipping with NextGen technologies, such as potential benefits. Finally, most commercial and turbine-powered general aviation operators who will fly in ADS-B Out airspace plan on meeting the 2020 deadline. However, FAA has not finalized procedures needed by non-equipped operators to access ADS-B Out airspace.
We made three recommendations to FAA concerning having the necessary systems and procedures in place so operators can access ADS-B Out required airspace. FAA concurred with two of our recommendations and provided appropriate planned actions and completion dates. It did not concur with one recommendation to analyze the feasibility of developing automated systems to provide operators with more timely information regarding GPS outages or degradation. The Agency concluded that developing these additional systems is redundant and an inefficient use of resources. Based on its response, we believe that FAA has assessed the feasibility of developing automated systems as noted in recommendation 2. We consider this recommendation closed.