The Australian Transport Safety Bureau and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) are jointly encouraging general and recreational aircraft owners to take advantage of the government’s Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) rebate program before it closes on 31 May next year.
To incentivise voluntary uptake of ADS-B installations in Australian–registered aircraft operating under Visual Flight Rules (VFR), the government is providing a 50 per cent rebate on the purchase cost – capped to $5,000 – of eligible devices and, where applicable, the installation. While eligibility rests on equipment providing an ADS-B OUT capability, devices that provide ADS-B IN, as well as low-cost portable ADS-B devices, are also eligible for the grant.
One eligible operator, the Manning River Aero Club based at Taree Aerodrome in northern NSW successfully applied for a grant in May 2023 to assist with installing ADS-B OUT in their Cessna 172S aircraft.
“Since our installation, pilots operating the aircraft have reported receiving numerous radio calls from air traffic services and regular public transport aircraft providing traffic alerts or requesting flight details for traffic separation,” President of the Manning River Aero Club Gary Tonkin said.
“The government’s rebate paid for half the purchase and fitting costs for the ADS-B equipment, which made the installation financially possible. Our pilots are already seeing the benefits of having ADS-B installed.”
In support of the rebate program, ATSB Chief Commissioner Angus Mitchell along with his AMSA counterpart, Chief Executive Officer Mick Kinley, remind those eligible for the rebate about the added safety benefits that ADS-B offers.
“The ‘see and avoid’ principle for pilots has known limitations, and the use of ADS-B IN with a cockpit display or an electronic flight bag application showing traffic information greatly improves a pilot’s situational awareness and enhances the safety of their flight,” Mr Mitchell said.
“The need for improved situational awareness for pilots was evident during our investigation into the mid-air collision of two IFR training aircraft near Mangalore Airport in 2020. While both aircraft involved in the collision were operating under instrument flight rules (IFR) and equipped with ADS-B OUT, neither aircraft were equipped with ADS-B IN systems, and nor were they required to be.”
To support its investigation into the mid-air collision, the ATSB initiated an aircraft performance and cockpit visibility study to determine when each aircraft may have been visible to the pilots of the other aircraft. The study has clearly showed that had the aircraft been equipped with ADS-B IN, the pilots would have been assisted in locating the other aircraft and alerted to its position much earlier than by visual acquisition.
“Both a cockpit display of traffic information with an ADS-B traffic alerting system or an electronic conspicuity device connected to an electronic flight bag application could have provided this advance warning of a potential collision to the pilots of both aircraft with this tragic accident probably being avoided,” Mr Mitchell said.
“When flying in non-controlled airspace it’s important to have a high level of situational awareness, and one tool that can help you and other pilots is ADS-B IN.”
The accurate positional data available from ADS-B can also assist in managing life-saving search and rescue (SAR) operations undertaken by AMSA, helping to guide first responders to a location with greater precision to affect a rescue.
“ADS-B data is another valuable tool used for SAR operations in Australia which helps to improve our ability to save lives,” Mr Kinley said.
“For aircraft in distress that are equipped with ADS-B, AMSA’s Joint Rescue Coordination Centre Australia will use the aircraft’s last known ADS-B position to refine a distress location. ADS-B can also provide enhanced traffic conflict data in a search area that may involve multiple SAR aircraft to enhance the safety of those involved in the response.”
ATSB transport safety investigators also use ADS-B data to help build a better understanding of an aircraft’s flight path* and performance prior to an incident or accident, which can lead to better safety outcomes for the aviation community.
“ADS-B offers our investigators with valuable information, which can be particularly beneficial during an investigation in a remote area where there is quite often limited evidence available,” Mr Mitchell said.
“In one example, ADS-B data allowed our investigators to create a detailed picture of a Vans RV-7A’s flight path prior to its collision with terrain in remote Queensland in April 2021 (AO-2021-017).”
During this accident, the non-instrument rated pilot likely entered instrument meteorological conditions before becoming spatially disorientated, resulting in the loss of aircraft control. The pilot was fatally injured. The irregular flight path that was created from ADS-B data was most likely the result of the pilot’s effort to avoid bad weather.
If you have not already, and you are eligible, please take advantage of the generous rebate to equip your aircraft with ADS-B before the offer ends on 31 May 2024.
More information, including on how to apply for the rebate is available at: https://business.gov.au/grants-and-programs/automatic-dependent-surveillance-broadcast-rebate-program.
* The above Google Earth image was generated by ATSB transport safety investigators using Aireon ADS-B data to show the flight path of Van's Aircraft RV-7A, VH-XWI, which collided with terrain 90 km south of Charters Towers, Queensland, on 23 April 2021.