Safety is Always Job One for GA Manufacturers
July 14, 2016
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  • As general aviation manufacturers design, develop, and make new products and technologies, safety is always foremost in our minds. We’ve been making a lot of progress lately, which will make flying that much safer and more enjoyable for our customers.

    In June, I was pleased to join FAA Administrator Michael Huerta and other general aviation association leaders in Wichita as the FAA announced a $500 rebate for the first 20,000 operators who install ADS-B Out in their aircraft over a year-long period. ADS-B gives pilots greater situational awareness of what’s going on in the airspace around them, through free in-cockpit traffic and weather data. However, ADS-B only provides operators with comprehensive traffic data in mandated airspace when all operators are equipped with ADS-B Out. With the FAA reporting earlier this year that there are now more unmanned than manned registered aircraft, equipping an aircraft with ADS-B is an extremely important step for anyone flying general aviation aircraft as we look toward a future with many more vehicles occupying the airspace.

    Separately, GAMA has pushed the FAA to make it easier to install non-required safety-enhancing equipment (NORSEE) in existing GA aircraft as a way to reduce the number of loss-of-control accidents. The FAA issued a draft policy this spring, and we hope to see a final policy soon. With a standard approval process for NORSEE, manufacturers will be able to provide upgrades for aircraft with many new and/or lower-cost technologies — such as engine monitoring, traffic and terrain advisory, low fuel, and enhanced crashworthiness — while streamlining the lengthy and cost-ineffective certification process that drives up the cost of these technologies.

    We also expect to see final Part/CS-23 rules soon. The proposed Part/CS-23 rules make it easier for the FAA and the European Aviation Safety Agency, respectively, to certify new products, including safety-enhancing technologies, for small airplanes. This means the certification review process will be less bureaucratic and costly for manufacturers and their customers of pistons, turboprops, and light jets.

    While GAMA is working on ways to improve safety at the policy level, our member companies are developing new features that go into aircraft every day. As just one example, Wipaire’s laser gear advisory system addresses a serious need with a smart solution. If a pilot fails to have the gear retracted on an amphibian floatplane when trying to land on water, he or she is facing a potentially fatal landing. Wipaire has created a laser array “eye” that detects whether an aircraft is over land or water and then compares that result to the gear position indicator. If the detected surface and appropriate gear position differ, the gear advisory system instructs the operator to “check gear” — meaning go around. The system also includes a timed “check gear” alert after takeoff — usually one of the busiest parts of the flight where distractions occur. This feature is especially helpful for pilots flying short distances from an airport to water. Wipaire is adding this feature to new models of airplanes and plans to also make the product available for retrofit.

    All of these exciting developments promise to make general aviation flying much safer. With manufacturers devoting so much attention to safety, operators who take advantage of these features can focus more of their energy on the joys and utility of flying — perfect timing for these long summer days.

    Pete Bunce is president and CEO of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association,