There seems to be a lot of confusion regarding ADS-B requirements and lighter-than-air aircraft. This has led to much speculation that in some way, lighter than air aircraft were going to need to be equipped with ADS-B equipment to be able to operate near either Class B or C airspace. So, let’s look at the rules (14 CFR 91.225) that have been in place since the required installation of ADS-B took place in 2020.
Who is required to have ADS-B?
Since ADS-B has a constant power requirement and requires interaction with a WAAS enabled GPS, an electrical system must be employed, which by rule must have been installed by the manufacturer as a part of the type certification of the aircraft. Aircraft that were not manufactured with an electrical system are not required to install ADS-B. That includes hot air and gas balloons. Installation in balloons is currently not available. In addition, these systems are installed under an STC specifically directed at each aircraft manufacturer. This relates to things like antenna stability and placement, which would need to be fixed and permanent. Each installation must display the aircraft N number and must contain the internal ICAO code, which is installed by the avionics installer. Most of this could not be accomplished in balloons.
Where can you fly without the requirement for ADS-B to be installed?
You can fly under the shelf of any Class C and under the shelf of any Class B and that includes the airspace within the Mode C veil. You may not operate within either the Class C or B airspace that is within the wedding cake shelves or in the area that goes to the surface without ADS-B. In other words, you may not fly within the wedding cake. Flight within this airspace would require a waiver issued for a particular operation for non-ADS-B equipped aircraft.
What about non-permanent ADS-B installations?
They are not likely to be approved for many reasons and rules have not yet been proposed for temporary installations for the purpose of special flight operations such as record flights or gas balloon events. There have been waivers issued for these operations in the past, but the future of these waivers is in question. There are flying areas around the country that conflict with ADS-B required Class C airspace, so waivers will likely be needed to continue to operate in this airspace, or if not available, the flying area modified to avoid these areas.
So how does ADS-B affect me?
For most balloon operations, the ADS-B requirement will not apply. We encourage you to read the language as listed in 14 CFR 91.225.
How is the BFA involved?
The BFA Government Relations committee has engaged the FAA in ongoing conversations regarding the ADS-B requirements, the future of waivered operations in Class C and the issue of portable ADS-B units. We will continue to provide our members with information in this regard.