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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Rotorcraft Report: NVGs Get FAA Approval

PRODUCTS | EMS

Nivisys Industries LLC’s booth at the February 21-24 Heli-Expo in Anaheim, Calif. displayed the night vision goggle manufacturer’s hardware, but spotlighted something more unique: a Federal Aviation Administration stamp of approval. The five-year-old Tempe, Ariz., company is the first NVG maker to get a TSO-C164 certificate from the FAA, a selling point NIVISYS hopes will attract helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS), to its NVAG-6 aviator night vision goggle.

With the worst annual fatality rate from HEMS accidents ever recorded between December 2007 and December 2008, the National Transportation Safety Board is urgently looking for ways to improve safety. Many experts are urging HEMS operators to add NVGs to their equipment packages. Some even think the FAA might ultimately mandate them. Only about 33 percent of HEMS outfits currently use NVGs, Bell Helicopter Textron’s president and CEO Richard Millman, told one Heli-Expo audience.

The FAA doesn’t currently require HEMS pilots to use NVGs but the agency must approve all equipment, training, maintenance, and certain techniques operators use. Lee Stephens, senior technical applications manager for Nivisys, said the FAA certification of the company’s NAVG-6 could save operators who go to NVGs a lengthy step in the approval process and possibly reduce their insurance premiums. — By Rick Whittle

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