Cessna AoA System
Textron Aviation subsidiary Cessna announced that Safe Flight’s SCc angle-of-attack (AoA) system is now standard on all Cessna 172 Skyhawks. The company stated that installation of this AOA safety system is consistent with FAA’s objectives of reducing loss-of-control incidents.
That seems to be a fairly mundane announcement, but this press release should be commended by all in the aviation safety business.
Safety enhancements to vehicles frequently add to their price tags; thus, the manufacturers try to avoid VOLUNTARILY making this type of equipment part of their standard packages. NHTSA and the automotive industry have had battles over the requirements to include seat belts, air bags, antilock braking systems and accident avoidance systems.
Cessna has not even been threatened with an FAA mandate to include AoAs in new aircraft. A regulatory expert would acknowledge that it would take 3-5 years for the FAA to issue a standard compelling the inclusion of this safety equipment.
A short history of the recommendations about installation of AoAs shows the need and benefits for making the Safe Flight system part of the Skyhawk:
- In 2014 the FAA issued an InFO citing the General Aviation Joint Steering Committee, including its Safety Assessment Team. The recommendation was that GA aircraft owners should install, train, and use non-required AOA.
- AOA-based displays provide a pilot with a visual indication that can assist in preventing LOC during critical phases of flight. The use of an AOA-based system in an airplane keeps the pilot informed of the AOA. The objective of AOA-based displays is to provide input to the pilot as a crosscheck to standard required instrumentation. AOA indication may improve pilot situational awareness to avoid exceeding the critical AOA and thus reduce the risk of an inadvertent stall.
- In February, 2014, AIR-100 and AIR-200 issued a policy memorandum consolidating the process and reducing the requirements for approving the installation of non-required AoAs.
- “Installation of an AoA system may aid in preventing loss of control accidents. Manufacturers have requested a streamlined method of design and production approval for nonrequired/supplemental systems.”
- “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.”
- Under the new policy, manufacturers must 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 via a letter certifying that the equipment meets ATSM standards and was produced under required quality systems. The FAA’s Chicago Aircraft Certification Office will process all applications to ensure consistent interpretation of the policy.
- NTSB 2015 Most Wanted List urged “[a]irplane owners
should consider installing an AOA indicator, which, coupled with pilot understanding and training on how to best use it, can enhance situational awareness during critical or high-workload phases of flight.” The NTSB AoA recommendation was repeated in the 2016 MWL.
- Between 2001 and 2011, more than 40 percent of fixed-wing GA fatal accidents occurred because of loss of control.
- In November, 2015 the FAA issued a video which presented an analysis of AoA devices in the general aviation environment. It promotes FAA policy concerning non-required/supplemental AoA based systems for GA airplanes.
- FAATest.com published a technical paper on the AOA dynamics.
The buyers of Cessna’s Skyhawks, with the standard Safe Flight’s SCc included, should fly with greater safety margin.
All aviation safety professionals should applaud Cessna for taking this aggressive move for safety. The FAA safety regulations define the minimum safety level required. The company decided to do more on its own.
In this new enlightened SMS approach to reducing risks, implementing improvements BEFORE they may become requirements should be the standard procedure of OEMs, airlines, airports, repair stations, pilots and others holding certificates. The message here is SAFETY FIRST.