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ADS-B: Navigating the FAA rebateADS-B: Navigating the FAA rebate

And tips for a successful validation flight

The FAA’s ADS-B rebate program, announced on June 6, went live on September 19. The program, which offers up to 20,000 rebates of $500 to owners of single-engine piston-powered airplanes who install TSOed ADS-B Out equipment, will run for one year or until all the rebates have been claimed. Indicative of pent-up demand, 1,078 rebates were reserved the first day. In the rebate’s first four weeks, 2,830 rebates were reserved—reflecting an average, after the first-day spike, of 438 per week.

ADS-B—Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast—uses satellites instead of ground-based radar to determine aircraft location, and is a key technology behind the FAA’s Next Generation Air Traffic Control System. The FAA has mandated ADS-B Out after January 1, 2020, for flight in airspace where a transponder is required today.

The FAA has established a five-step process to claim the rebate (www.faa.gov/go/rebate). First, select the equipment you wish to purchase and schedule its installation. Second, reserve your rebate online and obtain a Rebate Reservation Code. Third, have the equipment installed. Fourth, fly according to the rebate program rules to validate equipment performance and receive an Incentive Code. Finally, go online and use your Rebate Reservation Code and Incentive Code to claim the rebate.

The rebate program’s first month has shown that some key program rules were not prominently publicized, or were not understood by aircraft owners. Here’s some information that will help you to navigate the rebate process.

Making a reservation

When you go online to reserve a rebate, you must provide a scheduled installation date. However, the FAA website will only accept an installation date within 90 days of your reservation—and some avionics shops currently are booked for the next five months (or longer). Please inform AOPA if your shop of choice cannot schedule your installation within the 90-day window (pilotassist@aopa.org).

“The rebate program is next to useless,” said Joe Goodin, who wants to install a Garmin GTN 750 WAAS GPS navigator and a GTX 345 1090ES transponder in his Piper Arrow—but the busy shop he selected to do the work can’t schedule his installation until March 2017. Goodin noted an AOPA Online article that suggested having another shop do the ADS-B Out installation so he could book the $500 rebate. “Why would I want to have two different companies dig into my panel and do upgrades? The increase in labor alone would negate any rebate savings.”

Information in the advisory circular is for guidance and pilots do not need to fly at a speed they deem unsafe.Avionics manufacturers at a panel discussion during AOPA’s final 2017 Fly-In, in Prescott, Arizona, on October 1, suggest applying for the rebate and choosing the latest allowable installation date (90 days after application). There is no check-in or verification at the scheduled installation date; it serves only to start the clock on the 60-day window to install the equipment and successfully complete a validation flight. In other words, by choosing an installation date at the maximum 90 days after application, you actually have 150 days to complete the installation, pass the validation flight, and claim your rebate. This may help if your shop can schedule your installation within four months (and stays on schedule), but provides no relief if your selected shop is booking work more than five months in the future.

Validation flight

Requirements for the validation flight are causing the most confusion. Advisory Circular 20-165B recommends a flight profile for validating ADS-B Out performance using the FAA’s Public ADS-B Performance Report Request and states that the flight may be accomplished in any airspace that has FAA ADS-B ground station coverage. However, the rebate rules also state that the validation flight must be in “airspace defined in [FAR] 91.225 for a minimum of 30 minutes, with at least 10 aggregate minutes of maneuvering flight.”

Why does the FAA require 30 minutes of flight in the airspace where ADS-B Out will be required after January 1, 2020? “Since the target audience is people who generally fly in the designated airspace, they won’t find it a hardship to perform the required validation flights,” the FAA said in its rebate FAQs. This objective is not mentioned elsewhere in the rebate rules.

Dorothy Schick is among the aircraft owners who didn’t catch the FAR 91.225 airspace requirement, even after studying the rebate rules (the FAA has told AOPA it is making that provision more prominent). Schick is a CFI and owns a flight school in Creswell, Oregon, which installed an ADS-B Out-compliant transponder in its 1978 Cessna 172N. “We are located 100 nm away from the nearest Class C, over 300 nm from Class B, and climbing to Class E above 10,000 feet from basically sea level would require a sizable cost investment, not to mention oxygen,” she said. She would like to see an alternative method for rebate compliance that does not require an expensive cross-country flight, or climbing more than 9,500 feet in a Skyhawk.

Bob Hovan of Port Orange, Florida, failed the validation test after installing ADS-B Out equipment in his Piper Warrior II. “It was unclear you needed to be in rule airspace,” he said. “I will try again under the Class B 30-mile ring.”

Hovan also questioned AC 20-165B’s recommendation for a cruise descent at VNE minus 10 knots—which in his airplane would be 150 knots. “The Piper operator manual has for normal procedures a 126-knot descent, which is top of green arc, and advises extreme caution above this speed, in the yellow arc.”

Rune Duke, AOPA director of government affairs for airspace and air traffic, said information in the AC is for guidance and that pilots do not need to fly at a speed they deem unsafe.

When your aircraft passes the validation flight, in addition to your Public ADS-B Performance Report (PAPR), you’ll receive a GA Incentive Requirement Status (GAIRS) Report that includes your incentive code. To complete the rebate process, within 60 days of the installation date you scheduled in the FAA system, log into the FAA website and enter both your rebate reservation code and your incentive code.

Other rebate tips

• Only U.S.-registered, fixed-wing, single-engine piston aircraft whose operation requires an onboard pilot, first registered before January 1, 2016, are eligible for the rebate.

• Wait at least one hour after flying before logging into the FAA website to request your PAPR and GAIRS reports. If the flight data is not yet in the system, you’ll receive a “failed to generate a result” error message. (You’ll also get this message if you enter the incorrect date of your flight, which is determined by Zulu time and not local time.)

• Some users reported that the FAA rebate website does not work with some versions of the Firefox browser. Also, some ad-blocking software reportedly can interfere with proper operation.

• If a portable ADS-B Out transceiver has been used in an aircraft, the owner should contact the FAA asking to reserve a rebate. Documentation of the portable unit will be requested. The FAA recommends that the aircraft have conducted at least one recent flight without using the portable ADS-B Out unit.

• The $500 ADS-B rebate payments are taxable.

• More information about the rebate, including an explanatory video, is available on the FAA website.

Email mike.collins@aopa.org

Mike Collins

Mike Collins

Technical Editor
Mike Collins has worked for AOPA’s media network since 1994. He holds a private pilot certificate with an instrument rating.

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