A recent announcement by the Federal Aviation Administration that it will ease the path for installation of Angle of Attack Indicators in general aviation aircraft is no surprise to those who follow aviation accident statistics.
Loss of control on takeoff and landings is the leading cause of accidents among general aviation flights.
In Alaska the FAA has examined the types of accidents with a working group from the Anchorage FSDO and created a study report. The report called the Fatal and Serious Injury Accidents in Alaska studied accidents between the years of 2004 through 2009.
The extensive 67 page report detailed types of accidents and incidents and specifically took emphasis on crashes that could have been survivable and made recommendations to aviators in hopes of both pointing out what are the areas of greatest danger, but also how to survive an incident or accident with the use of safety equipment.
Like the rest of the U.S. a large percentage of accidents in Alaska are from loss of control, and of the 35 accidents studied from 2004-2009, 29 accidents were stall/spin crashes.
Thus one of the main recommendations is the installation of Angle of Attack indicators both in the Lower-48 and Alaska.
Angle of Attack Indicators (AOA) are not required equipment on general aviation aircraft, measure the angle between the wing and oncoming air stream, providing a warning of a potential stall due to exceeding the critical angle of attack.
Every wing design has a critical angle of attack that once exceeded creates airflow disturbances that remove the lifting ability of the wing and creates what is called a “Wing Stall.”
AOAs are not new to aviation, are used on some military aircraft, but not required on general aviation aircraft. Due to sticky and inconsistent certification issues and the need for FAA certification the administration has been criticized for slow approvals for certification and installation in certified aircraft.
To meet the FAA imposed mandate AOAs will be certified to American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards. In the future the FAA says all certifications requests will be processed by the Chicago Aircraft Certification Office.
During a Feb. 2014 General Aviation Safety Summit US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta commented on certification improvements.
“We are improving safety by streamlining regulations and cutting red tape – a win-win situation,” Foxx says.
“We have eliminated major barriers so pilots can add another valuable cockpit aid for safety,” said Huerta. “These indicators provide precise information to the pilot, and could help many avoid needless accidents.”
AOAs can be found at local aircraft parts dealers or ordered online with dozens of options from $800 –to-$5000 for parts and installation. Experimental aircraft builders may install the AOAs with specific approvals; however certified aircraft will need FAA approvals for the devices and installation.
Rob Stapleton can be reached at: robstapleton(at)alaska.net