Mixed Aerial Firefighters ADS-B Compliance Status
With less than a year remaining on the looming date, aerial firefighters are working with various levels of effort to meet the January 1, 2020 deadline for ADS-B Out equipment compliance. After that date, non-compliant helicopter or fixed wing aircraft will have limited access to US airspace. ADS-B (automatic dependent surveillance broadcast) is considered an essential tool of 21st century air traffic management and is being implemented in both the US and Europe.
ADS-B Out avionics continuously broadcast an aircraft’s position (out) to air traffic controllers, within as little as one meter of accuracy. While ADS-B Out is mandated, operators can also select ADS-B In as an option, enabling pilots to see the location of nearby aircraft on a cockpit-mounted display.
To meet the ADS-B Out deadline in the US, operators have been actively scheduling equipment retrofits- in some cases, as an integral part of scheduled winter maintenance. For example, an operator with four CH47D helicopters in fleet began installations of ADS-B Out equipment in the 2014 winter maintenance cycle, with all reaching full compliance by January of 2019.
Another operator has selected both ADS-B Out and ADS-B In for its nine BAe 146 tankers, with retrofits slated for completion during this year’s winter maintenance period. One operations spokesperson said: “With ADS-B In deployed, our pilots will be able to see the call signs of all the aircraft working on the fire, this will improve situational awareness.” General consensus seems to exist that ADS-B Out is expected to enhance safety, allowing air traffic controllers to see where aircraft are at all times.
Smaller fleet operators are currently still holding off on the retrofit, hoping to see some some price reductions, as products are improved and competition increases as the mandate gets closer. It is there where the largest doubts towards ADS-B Out will make any significant difference on the safety side. Many view the mandate as legally required to be complied with not showing too much haste in actually doing so.