In 2010, the FAA published a final rule that established the airspace where certain aircraft operators are required to have Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) Out equipment installed in order to operate after January 1, 2020. The ADS-B rule, 14 CFR § 91.225, describes the applicability of ADS-B to certain airspace—which we will call ADS-B rule airspace—and what aircraft must equip, and 14 CFR § 91.227 defines how the installed ADS-B system must perform. The FAA estimates more than 140,000 general aviation aircraft will be affected by the ADS-B mandate; however, many aircraft owners did not equip in advance of the mandate and will still need access to this airspace.
The FAA has established its policy for granting an Air Traffic Control (ATC) authorization to deviate from the rule. This policy permits aircraft owners and operators flying aircraft without ADS-B Out equipment to seek an authorization to access ADS-B rule airspace. In collaboration with industry, the FAA has developed a web-based tool for pilots to submit their ATC authorization requests. This fact sheet outlines the FAA’s policy and methods for using the web tool to request an ATC authorized deviation; i.e., access ADS-B rule airspace without ADS-B installed, or with ADS-B installed but not working.
In April 2019, the FAA published a “Statement of Policy for Authorizations to Operators of Aircraft that are Not Equipped with Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast Out Equipment” that outlined the FAA’s policy for issuing an ATC authorization to persons seeking to operate aircraft not equipped with ADS-B Out equipment in ADS-B rule airspace. The regulatory text in 14 CFR § 91.225(g) details the rule’s allowance for a deviation, and the FAA’s statement of policy explained how it plans to implement that regulation and how pilots could make an application. Specifically, Section 91.225(g) addresses two aircraft equipage types that may not meet the ADS-B Out requirements: Aircraft with inoperative ADS-B Out equipment, 91.225(g)(1), and aircraft that are not equipped with ADS-B Out equipment, 91.225(g)(2).
The FAA noted that the ADS-B Deviation Authorization Preflight Tool (ADAPT) is the only approved method for making a preflight request for an ATC authorization in accordance with 14 CFR § 91.225(g)(2). This web tool streamlines the application process and removes the burden on the pilot who otherwise might have to coordinate with many ATC facilities to access rule airspace. Pilots cannot make any airspace access request related to Section 91.225(g)(2) over the phone or in flight–all requests must go through ADAPT–and all official FAA approvals will be transmitted via email. Controllers who interact with pilots over the radio will not be responsible for determining whether aircraft not equipped with ADS-B Out are properly authorized to operate in ADS–B Out rule airspace.
Below are the guidelines for the ADAPT website:
Additional guidance and an FAA tutorial video on using ADAPT can be found on their website, and an extensive Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) list is available on the ADAPT help page.
ADAPT is designed to automate the approval process as much as feasible. Most requests fit within a few limited categories such that the FAA can automatically approve these requests, with some limitations. For example, the FAA may grant an ATC authorization to fly in ADS-B airspace for a pilot to have ADS-B installed or repaired; however, authorizations will be tracked by tail number and the FAA is likely to limit the number of approvals issued for one aircraft that chooses this category multiple times. Any operator planning to routinely need access to ADS-B rule airspace is expected to equip with ADS-B.
The FAA will not include any unique comments or rationale in its approval or denial email to the applicant due to legal limitations. Requests for ATC authorization may be denied for a variety of reasons such as ATC workload or a radar outage. Additionally, the FAA is unlikely to approve an ATC authorization if the destination or departure airport is a capacity-constrained airport, which includes:
Some operator requests reside beyond the bounds of automated approval thresholds and will need to be manually reviewed. These requests (which upon submission will be identified as pending) are automatically forwarded to an FAA air traffic representative for processing; however, FAA will only staff this position 16 hours per day, 7 days per week (6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Eastern time). If FAA personnel do not respond to a request because of other priority duties, at least 30 minutes prior to the applicant’s proposed time of departure, the applicant will automatically be emailed a denied response.
The controllers that pilots interact with over the radio will not be aware of the status of your request or, in the case of an approval, permission to access ADS-B required airspace. These controllers will continue to provide air traffic services to all aircraft operating within their airspace, including those aircraft that have not equipped with ADS-B Out and have not obtained proper authorizations under 14 CFR 91.225(g). It is the responsibility of the pilot to ensure he or she has proper approvals before entering this specific airspace, and pilots should not consider an ATC clearance into that airspace as a replacement for an approval via ADAPT.
Common reasons for denial:
Pilots who need to use ADAPT can increase their chances for approval following several best practices:
Below is a short overview of submitting a request via ADAPT. A full user guide is available from the FAA.
The first step is to access ADAPT and fill out the Flight Information Entry form, which appears similar to the recently discontinued domestic flight plan format. Clicking each field will open a box explaining how to fill out that section. The route of flight entered should be similar to what you intend to fly, although the route entered does not have to not match routes or reroutes provided by ATC; changes are expected.
Field 11 is where the specific ADS-B information is selected. Most pilots will select either “unequipped” or “inoperative” for the “ADS-B Position Source TSO” and “ADS-B Link TSO.” You can leave “Mask Angle” and “Baro-Aiding equipment installed” unchanged; they are not relevant, and the selection will not affect ADAPT.
Then click “Check Availability” to see if alternative surveillance is available for your flight. The “Transaction Number” does not need to be recorded and it is not an authorization.
After clicking “Check Availability” the page will automatically scroll down to show a “Request an Authorized Deviation for this flight” link, which should be clicked as it is the next step.
The applicant will complete the additional fields in the Deviation Request form. It is important that the email address provided is accurate and accessible, because the official approval will only be emailed to this address. Pilots should confirm receipt of the approval email before conducting that flight.
The “Reason for Request” includes several options, presented below with a short explanation of what each means.
All other fields can be filled out as applicable to the flight. Comments entered as part of the application process are not reviewed by the FAA during the approval process when the flight is automatically approved and manual review is not required. Finally, the applicant can submit the request and await the FAA’s response, which is discussed in the next step.
One of three options will appear after submitting the deviation request: approved, denied, or pending. The status of the request will be provided. If you are approved, you must ensure you have received an approval email because it serves as the official record. Retain this email. A pending response means manual review will be necessary and it may take longer to receive a response.
A denial indicates that flight cannot be completed as requested. The FAA will not provide a specific reason for the denial because of legal limitations. The pilot can revise the flight and resubmit. AOPA advises pilots who are denied that they can adjust their flight, as they feel is necessary, and select “other” under “Reason for Request.” Selecting “other” ensures the flight will have a manual review and that the accompanying comment submitted by the pilot will be read.
For inquiries about the process or if you have any questions, see ADAPT contacts.
One of the “reason for request” drop-down options in ADAPT is “fringe operation.” A fringe operation is a flight that will take place at a fringe airport, which is defined in FAA Order JO 7210.3 as “…an airport that is approximately 25 NMs or farther from the Class B airspace primary airport and is not served by a scheduled air carrier; or an airport outside the Mode C veil at which aircraft operations in the traffic pattern routinely enter the Mode C veil.” JO 7210.3 further stipulates that fringe operations must: “(a) not adversely impact other operations receiving radar service in the area; (b) must take place below 2,500 feet AGL; (c) remain clear of traffic flows; and (d) are to be conducted in the airport traffic pattern and via the most direct routing out of the Mode C veil, consistent with existing traffic and noise abatement procedures.” The FAA will likely approve fringe operations that follow these guidelines and are submitted via ADAPT. ADAPT is best used for infrequent operations.
For long-term authorizations for fringe operations in aircraft not equipped with ADS-B Out, such as for based aircraft, the ATC facility responsible for that airspace can be contacted to enter into a Letter of Agreement (LOA). An LOA will replace the need to conduct per-flight requests in ADAPT. This is one of the few cases where the local ATC facility is contacted directly. AOPA can assist with contact information, see ADAPT contacts.
Pilots can submit an ATC authorization request via ADAPT for operations of an aircraft with an inoperative ADS-B system, per 14 CFR 91.225(g)(1), by selecting “ADS-B equipment repair” as the reason for the request. The regulation allows pilots to fly to the airport of ultimate destination, including any intermediate stops, or to proceed to a place where suitable repairs can be made, or both. Although the regulation states the request may be made at any time, ADAPT requires at least a 1-hour lead time.
ADAPT is only used for flights with an inoperable ADS-B system that will transit ADS-B required airspace. There is no requirement to seek an FAA authorization prior to flying an aircraft with an inoperable ADS-B system if that flight will not transit ADS-B required airspace (see AC 90-114, “Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast Operations”). ADAPT requires that the aircraft have an operating transponder with altitude encoding.
A failure of the ADS-B system in flight will be handled by ATC and does not require the operator to make any request via ADAPT for that flight, including after the failure has occurred.
ADAPT will automatically deny any applicant who does not have an operable transponder with altitude encoding. Pilots who have a transponder failure must call the ATC facility with responsibility for that airspace to request an ATC authorization in accordance with 14 CFR 91.215(d). AOPA can assist with contact information, see ADAPT contacts.
Pilots desiring access to ADS-B required airspace flying an aircraft that does not have a transponder with altitude encoding capability at all, such as a non-electrical aircraft, antique aircraft, or agricultural aircraft, cannot use ADAPT and instead must call the ATC facility with responsibility for that airspace in order to gain access. Long-term requests for ATC authorization are to be made to the ATC facility responsible for that airspace. Pilots can request to enter into a Letter of Agreement (LOA). An LOA will replace the need to conduct per-flight requests via ADAPT. AOPA can assist with contact information, see ADAPT contacts.
For questions on an ATC authorization request, use this FAA air traffic email. This email is not staffed 24/7 and there may be delays in a response.
Feedback on the ADAPT interface can be directed to the FAA feedback form.
Any questions on using ADAPT can be directed at AOPA’s Pilot Information Center.
Updated May 20, 2020