The FAA approved a program last September to encourage private aircraft owners to install ADS-B Out equipment as soon as possible by providing a monetary incentive. Unfortunately, the program is only authorized to last for one year, and the last date to register for a rebate is September 18, 2017. This program will send you a check for $500 after you complete the process. Unless they choose to extend the program, time is running out.
There are a total of 20,000 rebates available, but currently fewer than 10,000 owners have applied and completed the process. You sign up for the program online, which is very easy to accomplish. A quick web search for the ADS-B Rebate Program provided the link to the FAA Rebate website, I registered for the rebate and was quickly emailed a Rebate Reservation Code. You provide them with your tail number and tell them what equipment you have chosen to install. You will also tell them when you expect your equipment to be installed.
You are given 60 days after your installation to complete a validation flight. That flight requires you to perform some simple maneuvers in either Class C airspace or Class E airspace above 10,000 ft. MSL. You are required to spend 30 minutes flying in that airspace. There is a website available to verify if you have accomplished the necessary validation flight. You enter your information and request a Public ADS-B Performance Report. It will tell you what you have passed and what you have failed.
The closest Class C airport to my home airport in Augusta, GA (KDNL) is Columbia, SC (KCAE). I was doing some flying near and around other Class C airspace, but nothing counted toward my validation requirements. My reports were telling me that my equipment was working well, but that I had not performed the required time in the airspace that was specified. I was running out of time to complete my flight. With only a few days left, I finally had a good day to fly my mission. I was still unsure about my flight requirements, even after talking by phone to some tower personnel in Columbia, but I took off with flight following, hoping for the best. As soon as I was handed over to KCAE, I informed them of my intentions. I was informed that their ADS-B equipment was temporarily out of service, and that I would be wasting my time to continue. At that point, I figured that I would not receive my rebate check.
I was able to attend Sun 'n Fun this year, and the AOPA tent had some people there to help with General Aviation questions. I talked to the first available person and told him about my experience. He provided me with some great advice. First, I was told to contact ADS-B rebate help by email, explain my situation and ask for additional time. Second, I was told that my flying could be performed above the Class C airspace and still qualify as the validation flight.
As soon as I got home, I did a web search and found the email address for the FAA ADS-B Rebate Help folks. They responded quickly and provided me with additional time for my validation flight. I also asked them about the airspace requirements and they verified that the information I was given was correct. In fact, once you know what to look for, it is all there in black and white. Class C airspace has a central cylinder that typically has a 5 nautical mile radius that extends up through 1,200 ft. MSL to 4,000 ft. MSL. Stacked on top of that cylinder is another cylinder with a 10 nautical mile radius that starts at 1,200 ft. MSL and extends up to approximately 4,000 ft. MSL. The Class C airspace in KCAE extends up to 4,200 ft. MSL. I was also informed that my equipment was functioning properly.
On the day of my validation flight, I took off from Daniel Field (KDNL) after requesting flight following from Augusta Regional (KAGS). Entering the squawk code in the new transponders is much easier than my old unit. I took off into a clear, blue sky. The flight to KCAE took about 30 minutes, and about half way there I was handed off to Columbia. I explained what I intended to do, and asked if I could remain VFR above the Class C airspace. I was told to remain above 4,500 ft., and they cleared me for any maneuvers that I needed to perform.
As soon as my GPS indicated that I had entered the 10 nm radius, I started my stop watch. I flew on course until I knew I was well within the airspace and started doing my maneuvers. It was recommended that I perform two 360 degree turns to the right, and two 360 degree turns to the left. I practiced doing standard rate turns. After my turns, I ascended to 5,500 ft. MSL then descended to 4,700 ft. MSL and back up to 5,000 ft. MSL. Some clouds were forming over Columbia in the altitudes I was flying, so I was doing some maneuvering around the airspace in order to maintain my required distance from them. I spent the rest of my half hour following the curvature of the airspace, maintaining a good margin from the edge of the airspace in order to avoid being outside for any of my half-hour. When my time was almost up, I headed back the way I came in. In total, I spent a little over 35 minutes above the Columbia airport. I had no other traffic in the area. When I reviewed my path on ForeFlight later that day, it was rather amusing.
I was given the option of performing a landing at Columbia, but since I was interested in finding out if my flight plan worked for the validation flight, I declined the offer. I was only a few days into my extended time period and if it did not work, I still had the option of performing a flight inside the actual airspace and adding a couple of landings and takeoffs to the mix. One advantage of staying above the airspace is that you are free to perform any maneuver that you care to do, without concern for arriving and departing traffic. ATC only contacted me twice in that time period. First to inform me that there was traffic nearby and second to inform me that the traffic was no longer in my area.
I requested, and was given, flight following for the 30-minute trip back to KDNL. When I reported that I had the airport in sight, I was told to squawk VFR. One of the nice features of most, if not all, of these new transponders is that there is a button on the panel that enters the 1200 code for you. Gone are the days of twisting dials to bring up the appropriate code.
They tell you to wait at least 30 minutes before you request your Performance Report. That was not a problem in my case, since it takes more time than that to get back to my house. When I received my report, it showed all green for my flight. I was given a number to use to claim my rebate. Once again, you go to a website and enter the two reference numbers that you have been given. I then received an email that stated that my rebate had been approved, and that a check should arrive in 4-6 weeks to the address of the registered owner of the aircraft.
One week later, my rebate check arrived in the mail. Cha-ching!
Denny Kotz is a retired Mechanical Engineer who, after a lifetime of dreaming about flying, earned his certificate at the age of 63. A native of Sandusky, Ohio, he has lived in North Augusta, South Carolina since 1981. Another one of his passions is performing music, and he is a member of the Flying Musicians Association. He would like to thank everyone at Augusta Aviation, Inc. (KDNL) for all of their support and encouragement.