U.S. Group Steps Into Canadian ADS-B Debate

U.S. pilots are starting to realize that Canada will be off limits to most of them when the space-based ADS-B equipage mandate comes into full effect as early as 2026 and their national organization is stepping into the fray. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) is supporting a coalition of Canadian aviation organizations in its bid to delay implementation of the mandate so that other options can be considered. “This would constitute an equipage mandate for most US operators wanting to fly to Canada, most of whom have recently equipped to meet US requirements,” said Jim McClay, AOPA’s director of airspace, air traffic and security. “To comply, many operators will need to install new antennas on top of their aircraft as well as possibly replace their ADS-B units. The costs of complying will be significant and would be borne only by aircraft owners.”

The first phase of Canada’s mandate will come into effect in 2023 and will affect most controlled airspace above 12,500 feet. Most aircraft routinely flying that high will already have the so-called antenna diversity and roof-mounted antenna that will allow their ADS-B transponders to communicate with the satellites that provide almost all the data for flight tracking and maintaining separation in the Nav Canada system. But as early as 2026, the mandate will cover low-level controlled airspace and light aircraft will have to be equipped to use it. There are limited options for equipage, including $2,000 TailBeaconX, which incorporates an upward looking antenna and one to transmit to the ground in a package that also replaces the tail-mounted beacon on small aircraft.

Most U.S. small aircraft owners have already spent thousands of dollars to comply with the U.S. mandate, which doesn’t include the upward antenna. Very few of those systems can be modified to comply with the Canadian mandate so most would need new gear and not many U.S. owners are likely to spend the money. AOPA says more time is needed to assess compliance issues for owners on both sides of the border. “Due to these concerns, AOPA is urging a delay of the Nav Canada equipage mandate until a determination can be made on the cost impact to purchase and install the required equipment and discussions on potential alternative solutions are held,” McClay said.