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FAA Aims to Clear Safety Gear Hurdles

By Jim McKenna | July 8, 2016
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The FAA says it is encouraging owners of helicopters and smaller airplanes to install new safety equipment voluntarily by making broader use of a policy that went into effect March 31.
The agency said the new policy on installation of Non-Required Safety Enhancing Equipment (NORSEE) would streamline the process and reduce costs for fielding gear not currently required by regulations.
The FAA said the NORSEE policy covers equipment that increase overall situational awareness, provide additional information beyond an aircraft’s primary system (and independent warning, cautionary or advisory indications) and provides additional occupant safety protection. 
It said examples include traffic advisory systems, terrain awareness and warning systems, attitude indicators, fire extinguishing systems and autopilot or stability augmentation systems.
“The policy will reduce equipment costs by allowing the applicants the flexibility to select various industry standards that suit their product, as long as it meets the FAA’s minimum design requirements,” the agency said.
It clarified, however, that NORSEE does not cover approval of equipment for installation on an aircraft.
“It just makes the equipment eligible for installation on the aircraft,” the agency said. Installation of some equipment might require aircraft modifications “that are considered a major change to type design, or major alteration to the aircraft.” Such installations would require a supplemental type certificate or field approval from the FAA.
NORSEE has been an approval option since early 2014, when the FAA – in collaboration with industry through the General Aviation Joint Steering Committee – simplifying design approval requirements for installation of angle-of-attack (AOA) indicators in general aviation airplanes. Launched in 1997 as part of the industry-government Safer Skies Initiative to improve aviation safety (and revitalized in 2011), that committee works to improve general aviation safety through data-driven risk reduction efforts focused on education, training, and enabling new equipment in general aviation aircraft.
But NORSEE has hardly ever been used for helicopter equipment, a fact that has puzzled FAA officials. NORSEE was a topic of discussion at R&WI’s 2015 Rotorcraft Certification Summit. A follow-on event, the Rotorcraft Technology Summit, is scheduled for Sep. 19 and 20 in Fort Worth, Texas.
The policy expands on the earlier work on AOA indicators and, the FAA says, “establishes a single policy that is scalable and adjustable to accommodate and encourage the installation of new technology safety enhancements into [Federal Aviation Regulations] Part 23, 27 and 29 aircraft that are determined to be a minor change to type design.”
The new policy – and the FAA’s publicity for it – is aimed as much as at the agency’s own field inspectors as it is at aircraft owners, safety equipment manufacturers and the maintenance, repair and overhaul shops that install such gear. Inconsistent application of FAA policy by various field inspectors is a chronic problem for owners, vendors and MRO shops.

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