No, ADS-B Isn't Being Delayed

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When I was a young newspaper reporter and just reaching into opinion and commentary writing, it was understood there were certain things you never joked about. One was religion, another was a guy’s wife or a woman’s husband and anything to do with violent crimes was similarly off-limits. I’m adding a new sacred cow: No jokes about ADS-B.

No, not seriously, but after Sunday’s April Fools gag piece about the FAA slipping the ADS-B mandate 20 years, some ‘splaining is due. April Fools jokes sort into three broad categories: the patently silly, the semi-plausible and the deviously deceptive. Judging by the steady patter of email, readers slotted the spoof story into all three categories dependent upon personal predilection. I thought it to be semi-plausible.

“What a hoot. I had to click just to see what was at the end of the line of the April Fools' joke. Orson Wells ... remember the ‘War of the Worlds’ broadcast of Oct 30th, 1938? ... has nothing on you,” wrote Jim Holdeman. But others were clearly unamused. “Hey idiot!” wrote one ticked-off reader, “I really thought AVweb was a good thing until the sick joke about the ADS-B extension. Bye and good riddance!” One sharp-eyed reader noted that the wrong picture was used in the story, an illustration of the SDI system, with missiles sailing through space from the USSR. I thought that a good clue that the story was a spoof, but it looked too much like a real ADS-B graphic to be noticeable. An FAA staffer wrote me to say he found the story hilarious, but could I please sorta publish a follow-up to tamp things down? Their phones were getting a little busy.

Bottom line, if you were taken in by the gag and chuckled or you weren’t taken in and chuckled, I’m glad you enjoyed it. If you were or weren’t taken in and you’re steamed about it, please accept my humble apologies. A fool is the editor who intentionally riles up his readers and I certainly didn’t intend to do that. My only weak defense is that if it weren’t for black humor, I’d have no humor at all.  

Inadvertently, in publishing the story, I discovered something interesting. All of us who cover this field know there’s a pool of frustration and anger over ADS-B. Some view it as an existential threat to their personal freedom to fly, while others see the entire program as a multibillion-dollar boondoggle wasting their personal and tax dollars. The revelation for me is that I’ve always figured it takes a certain grim humor to willingly own an airplane but not everyone shares the view that laughing about it occasionally eases the pain.

I have been informed by management that I will have more time to become circumspect. The vacation schedules have been amended and it looks like I have the first week of April off through the year 2040.