ARE YOU ADS-B READY?

ADS-B is here, are you ready? Gasp!

Do you know what ADS-B is? Gasp!

Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) is a primary technology supporting the FAA’s Next Generation Air Traffic Control System, or NextGen, which will shift aircraft separation and air traffic control from ground-based radar to satellite-derived positions. ADS-B Out broadcasts an aircraft’s WAAS-enhanced GPS position to the ground, where it is displayed to air traffic controllers. It’s also transmitted to aircraft with ADS-B receivers, either directly or relayed by ground stations, to allow self-separation and increase situational awareness. An aircraft equipped with ADS-B In can display this data, increasing the pilot’s situational awareness.

When the clock strikes 12:01 am on January 2, 2020, an aircraft without ADS-B will be limited to where it can legally operate. In many areas of the country, non-ADS-B-equipped aircraft will effectively be grounded.

Gasp! Please tell me this doesn’t apply to balloons!?!?!?!?

As a balloon pilot this might be the first time you are hearing about ADS-B. I’m going to preface this discussion with this is written SPECIFICALLY to a hot air balloon. At The Balloon Training Academy we pride ourselves on providing a balloon specific education to students. So often we can find information in the aviation industry (airspace, weather, regulations, etc.), but it lacks applicability to balloons. The discussion which follows is written for balloons and balloons only.

There’s a reason why as a balloonist, you haven’t heard much, if anything, about ADS-B. As a balloon, with no electrical system, we are exempt from the equipment requirements of ADS-B. Rick Domingo, Executive Director Flight Standards Service, said as much in the January/February 2019 issue of the FAA Safety Briefing Magazine stating, “By the start — not the end — of 2020, aircraft flying in what we call “rule airspace” must have ADS-B Out. Only aircraft that always fly outside of “rule airspace,” and aircraft without electrical systems, such as balloons and gliders, are exempt from the mandate.”

BUT, that doesn’t mean that ALL of the requirement of ADS-B doesn’t apply to balloons. 91.225 specifically lists rules and exceptions for balloons (bold) –

91.225 Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) Out equipment and use.

(a) After January 1, 2020, and unless otherwise authorized by ATC, no person may operate an aircraft in Class A airspace unless the aircraft has equipment installed that –

(1) Meets the performance requirements in TSO-C166b, Extended Squitter Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) and Traffic Information Service-Broadcast (TIS-B) Equipment Operating on the Radio Frequency of 1090 Megahertz (MHz); and

(2) Meets the requirements of § 91.227.

(b) After January 1, 2020, and unless otherwise authorized by ATC, no person may operate an aircraft below 18,000 feet MSL and in airspace described in paragraph (d) of this section unless the aircraft has equipment installed that –

(1) Meets the performance requirements in –

(i) TSO-C166b; or

(ii) TSO-C154c, Universal Access Transceiver (UAT) Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) Equipment Operating on the Frequency of 978 MHz;

(2) Meets the requirements of § 91.227.

(c) Operators with equipment installed with an approved deviation under § 21.618 of this chapter also are in compliance with this section.

(d) After January 1, 2020, and unless otherwise authorized by ATC, no person may operate an aircraft in the following airspace unless the aircraft has equipment installed that meets the requirements in paragraph (b) of this section:

(1) Class B and Class C airspace areas;

(2) Except as provided for in paragraph (e) of this section, within 30 nautical miles of an airport listed in appendix D, section 1 to this part from the surface upward to 10,000 feet MSL;

(3) Above the ceiling and within the lateral boundaries of a Class B or Class C airspace area designated for an airport upward to 10,000 feet MSL;

(4) Except as provided in paragraph (e) of this section, Class E airspace within the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia at and above 10,000 feet MSL, excluding the airspace at and below 2,500 feet above the surface; and

(5) Class E airspace at and above 3,000 feet MSL over the Gulf of Mexico from the coastline of the United States out to 12 nautical miles.

(e) The requirements of paragraph (b) of this section do not apply to any aircraft that was not originally certificated with an electrical system, or that has not subsequently been certified with such a system installed, including balloons and gliders. These aircraft may conduct operations without ADS-B Out in the airspace specified in paragraphs (d)(2) and (d)(4) of this section. Operations authorized by this section must be conducted –

(1) Outside any Class B or Class C airspace area; and

(2) Below the altitude of the ceiling of a Class B or Class C airspace area designated for an airport, or 10,000 feet MSL, whichever is lower.

The bold specifically addresses how ADS-B applies to a hot air balloon.

Now you’re probably thinking, “how does this apply to balloons?”

The exception to allow balloons to operate in airspace which would otherwise be required to use ADS-B does not apply to airspace described in d(1) or d(3).

This means that a balloon CAN NOT operate in Class B and Class C airspace areas and above the ceiling and within the lateral boundaries of a Class B or Class C airspace area designated for an airport upward to 10,000 feet MSL.

As a balloon pilot, you wouldn’t be doing this anyway because of 91.215, transponder requirements.

Ok, so now where can we fly which other aircraft are required to have ADS-B?

Within 30 nautical miles of an airport listed in appendix D, section 1 to this part from the surface upward to 10,000 feet MSL.

This is referring to a Mode C Veil surrounding a Class B airport. A balloon is able to operate within a Mode C Veil – AS LONG AS – e(1)(2) are met, which is: the balloon remains outside any Class B or Class C airspace area; and below the altitude of the ceiling of a Class B or Class C airspace area designated for an airport, or 10,000 feet MSL, whichever is lower.

Ok, so what does that mean in plain English?

Well, a balloon can operate within a Mode C Veil, but they can’t enter the Class B airspace nor can they enter a Class C airspace which is within the Veil. The balloon also must stay below the height of the ceiling of the Class B or C or 10,000 feet MSL whichever is lower.

So….what’s that really mean?

It means that a balloon cannot fly over a Class B or C airport found within a Mode C Veil. A balloon is ok to fly within the Veil but can’t enter B or C airspace and must not fly above B or C airspace. A balloon, if above 10,000 feet MSL before entering the Veil, can continue above 10,000 feet MSL and overfly the Class B and remain above 10,000 feet MSL until outside the Veil (see exception below).

There is one other area in which a balloon can fly which other aircraft are required to have ADS-B.

That is: Class E airspace within the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia at and above 10,000 feet MSL, excluding the airspace at and below 2,500 feet above the surface.

What does this mean?

A balloon is able to fly 10,000 feet MSL and above (not into class A) without ADS-B.

Now, some of you when reading the regulation above are wondering what about e(1) and (2)? Doesn’t that apply? Wouldn’t that mean a hot air balloon cannot fly over the top of a Class C airport for example?

There is a lengthy legal interpretation to Ferrara which states that the requirements of e(1) and (2) apply to d(2) and not d(4). However, this does not mean that a balloon can fly above 10,000 feet MSL of a Class B within a Mode C Veil. D(4) does not give permission over d(2). Simply, d(4) allows a balloon to operate above 10,000 feet MSL without ADS-B, therefore a balloon can transition above the airspace given they started above 10,000 MSL before entering the Mode C Veil. See the link below for the FAA interpretation.

https://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/agc/practice_areas/regulations/interpretations/Data/interps/2019/Ferrara%20-%20(2019)%20Legal%20Interpretation.pdf

In summary, although the equipment requirements of ADS-B do not apply to a balloon, regulations related to ADS-B still do apply! It is important for a balloon pilot to know where it can operate without ADS-B. There is relief built into the regulation to allow for deviation authorization from ATC to operate without ADS-B in areas that a balloon is not able to (Class B, C airspace, above Class B and C within the Veil, etc.) however it is a request. That request must be made at least one hour before the scheduled operation and can be denied at any time, even while in flight. To request deviation authorization, use the FAA online system at least 1 hour but not more than 24 hours in advance of your flight. Don’t call the ATC facility to ask, and don’t request access from a controller of the radio – the answer will be “no”. https://www.faa.gov/nextgen/equipadsb/adapt/  For a balloon this will also likely require prior communication/discussion well in advance of your planned flight. We recommend calling up your local ATC facility and start the communication now and determine how the facility would like you to work with them on this.

The FAA automation will have the ability to detect non-ADS-B equipped aircraft in ADS-B rule airspace, and a pilot caught flying in the airspace without the required equipment could encounter enforcement action.

We’ve created this handy visual for your reference of ADS-B balloon requirements. If you have any additional questions on ADS-B feel free to contact us. Watch for an article on airspace entry requirements to appear in the BALLOONING magazine March/April issue.