Aerobatic Pilots and ADS-B


As of January 1, 2020, Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) Out will be required in most controlled airspace. Pilots practicing aerobatics, performing in an air show or competing in an event will also be required to report their position via ADS-B Out.

This requirement is no different from the current requirement to use an operating transponder for these types of flight operations. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) maintains that the capability of controllers and other pilots to identify and track aerobatic aircraft via ADS-B will enhance safety.

Here are the key points to remember, according to Sue Gardner, the FAA’s national aviation events specialist:

  • There is an FAA mandate for operation of ADS-B Out equipment. After January 1, 2020, and unless otherwise authorized by Air Traffic Control, ADS-B must be installed, operational, and used in the appropriate airspace, as required by Title (14 CFR) Part 91 sections 91.225 and 91.227.
  • Requirements for all aircraft — including those performing aerobatics — are as follows:
    • ADS-B Out-equipped aircraft must have their ADS-B Out equipment turned on while in the waivered airspace for an aviation event or when flying in an aerobatic practice area. This regulation cannot be waived under section 91.905.
    • Reduced ADS-B Out avionics performance during aerobatic flight is expected, and the FAA does not consider this to be a condition of noncompliance to applicable regulations.
    • ADS-B Out equipment installed on aircraft used while conducting aerobatic flight or aircraft certified for aerobatic flight must meet the performance requirements specified in section 91.227 when conducting non-aerobatic flights.
  • The FAA is stressing to aerobatic pilots that ADS-B Out is valuable for safety when an aerobatic aircraft is not performing dynamic maneuvers. It will transmit an aircraft’s identity and position to controllers and pilots of other aircraft equipped with ADS-B In, even if their aircraft is not being tracked on radar. In addition, equipping with ADS-B Out, and In, will help pilots of aerobatic aircraft travel safely to and from events.
  • The FAA is developing a new policy on the aerobatic use of ADS-B, available by this summer. The policy will be accessible in the FAA’s Flight Standards Information Management System (Order 8900.1) and guidance in the advisory circular, AC 91-45D, Waivers: Aviation Events.

Gardner says the FAA policy for ADS-B is being written in the same way as for transponders. The transponder rule has no waiver under section 91.205. With few exceptions, pilots are required to turn on the transponder.

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The International Council of Air Shows (ICAS) is a trade association dedicated to building and sustaining a vibrant air show industry to support its membership. To achieve this goal, ICAS demands its members operate their air show business at only the highest levels of safety, professionalism, and integrity.