Many folks have questions about ADS-B and aerobatic aircraft. Most questions are centered around the technical limitations of the current ADS-B equipment and its inability to keep up with the rapid heading, altitude and airspeed changes that we normally experience with aerobatic flight and the fact that most, if not all, of these flights indicate that the ADS-B equipment is not performing properly. Which then begs the question, am I going to get unwanted attention from the FAA for this and what can I do to avoid this.

The IAC has been working with the FAA Equip 2020 Focus Group in an effort to try and resolve some of these issues. The main issue is that of antenna masking during aerobatic maneuvers and the false "fail" signal it generates to the FAA's monitoring system. The FAA is well aware of the problem associated with aerobatics and erroneous ADS-B signal reporting and is trying to figure out a way to deal with it. For those aerobatic pilots that equipped their airplanes with ADS-B Out system and gone through the process to demonstrate it is compliant and who have on into the system to review one of their post compliance testing aerobatic flights, you may have noticed that your fight track shows a green line from the airport to your favorite practice area then your aerobatic practice looks like a red spaghetti bowl only to be followed by another pretty green line back to the airport. This type of flight may generate an NPE (non performing equipment) report within the FAA which they may or may not choose to act upon.

This type of flight may elicit a phone call or letter from the FAA. The FAA s trying to gather information and has promised me, as the IAC Government Relations Chair that there will be NO enforcement actions resulting from any of this. A year or more ago when this problem was recognized, I sent them a large list of aerobatic aircraft types that they will likely see with this issue. I realize that there is no way I can give them every type of aerobatic aircraft considering the large number of homebuilt aircraft out there but it as a start.

I speaking with the FAA this past week, I was told, as the number of aircraft being equipped with ADS-B increases, the number of "real" non-compliant installations is growing rapidly and they are trying to get their arms around how to deal with this. They tell me that when they physically look at an NPE report from an aerobatic flight it is obvious what is going on and they leave it alone. However, with the increasing number of non compliant aircraft, they do not have the staff to physically look at every NPE so the acro guys get caught up with the rest of the aviation community during their automated process of dealing with NPS aircraft. The FAA does not have time to make phone calls and is now sending certified letters to the registered owners of aircraft who have generated an NPE report

I plan to write a more detailed article for Sport Aerobatics on the topic very soon. However, for now, my advice should you receive communication from the FAA about an aerobatic flight and the performance of your ADS-B Out equipment, is to respond their inquiry and be done with it. No need to call your attorney or read more into it than it is. Believe me, I get it, nobody wants get a certified letter from the FAA to talk about their last flight.

I hope this info helps. I know it is far from perfect but it is what it is for now.

Bruce Ballew
IAC Government Relations Chair