There’s a management mantra that has served me well over the years that says, “If something is a good idea, and it deserves to succeed, the sixth time you present it, there’s a 75% chance of getting it approved.” Your exact mileage may vary but the concept is sound.
There are two good ideas that I’ve been a strong proponent of for years and have fussed about in various meetings: putting angle of attack (AOA) indicators in light GA aircraft and adding front seat airbags. Both ideas are so completely obvious that you have to wonder why it’s taken this long to begin implementation. (Cue the mantra.)
As the industry co-chair of the obtusely-named GA Joint Steering Committee (GAJSC to our friends), an FAA-industry initiative to study and implement GA safety efforts, it’s been on my agenda for some time. In Washington, D.C., in addition to committees, there are also subcommittees who actually do the work. Our subcommittee focused on loss of control which is one of the leading fatality producers. Not many fatal accidents occur when the pilot is in control, but I digress.
What’s good about this breakthrough is that both pieces of equipment are relatively simple and they work; one makes the pilot aware that he’s asking the wing to do something impossible, and the second helps to save the bacon if the first one is ignored. Here’s another big breakthrough: none of this is a perfect solution that too often leads to bureaucratic gridlock when a good solution will get us far better results than the status quo. But we’re moving on it anyway!
Another bit of good news is that the FAA Small Airplane Directorate has said they will make it much easier to retrofit both of these devices to old aircraft. Many new airplanes have had airbags for years, and older ones can be equipped, in some cases, more easily than with shoulder harnesses. Good for them—let’s see safety equipment become integrated into old airframes quickly to encourage owners to make a good choice. An aside: shoulder harnesses are very cheap if there is an attach point. Rather expensive if one has to be fabricated.
The AOA indicator can be used to good effect with more precise takeoffs and landings. Some of us are, shall we say, somewhat lacking in those areas. The turns which seem so benign can occasionally bite very quickly. The airbags are pure insurance and worth more than any earthly object when needed—otherwise they’re worthless, but then that’s how it is with insurance. Do you feel lucky?
A double-pronged approach to stall prevention and survivability in many accidents—what a concept! And it’s not mandated but should stand on its own merits.