[Avionics Today February 5, 2014] The FAA announced a major shift in its regulation of Angle of Attack (AOA) indicators for small aircraft, making it easier for General Aviation (GA) operators to upgrade their cockpits with safety enhancing technology.
AOA refers to the angle between an aircraft's wing and the oncoming air, and if the “angle of attack” becomes too great, the wing can stall and lose lift. In recent years, the GA industry has been looking to reform the regulation of AOA indicators, because loss of control (mainly stalls) accounts for nearly 40 percent all fatal GA accidents, according to the FAA.
Regulatory costs have been the primary barrier between GA operators installing much-needed AOA indicators into their aircraft in the past. According to a recent interview with Greg Bowles, director of European Regulatory Affairs and Engineering for the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), the average cost of installing an AOA in a Part 23 GA aircraft without any certification paperwork or oversight is about $500. However, in the certified environment, that cost rises to $5,000 or more and faces significant delays before actually making it to the cockpit.
Now, the FAA has removed that regulatory barrier, with its newly announced policy requiring manufacturers to build the AOA indicator system according to standards from the American Society for Testing and Materials (ATSM) and apply for FAA approval for the design certifying that the equipment meets ATSM standards.
AOA devices are more common in military and large civil aircraft, and can be added to smaller aircraft to supplement airspeed indicators and stall warning systems to provide alerts to pilots of a low airspeed condition before a dangerous stall occurs, according to the FAA.
“We have eliminated major barriers so pilots can add another valuable cockpit aid for safety,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “These indicators provide precise information to the pilot, and could help many avoid needless accidents.”