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Going Direct: FAA Okays Retrofit Of Non-Certified Avionics In Certified Airplanes

The FAA on Wednesday took the historic step in advancing the cause of safety in light GA and in adding immeasurably to the value of the used fleet by okaying an avionics solution that’s unlike any in the history of the agency.

The news? On Wednesday, the EAA, which spearheaded the campaign, announced that the FAA has granted STC approval for the installation of the non-certificated Dynon EFIS-D10A primary attitude indicator to replace the antique, failure-prone and obsolete mechanical attitude instruments in the panels of Cessna 150, 152 and 172 and Piper PA-28 and PA-38 models. While that list is relatively short, it contains some of the most produced aircraft in GA history and represents many tens of thousands of airplanes in the fleet.

Going Direct: FAA Okays Retrofit Of Non-Certified Avionics In Certified Airplanes
Dynon EFIS-D10A primary attitude indicator

Dynon hasn’t released pricing of the instrument, but we expect it to be in line with the price of the experimental product. Dynon says it plans to reveal more details soon.

This isn’t the first time that the FAA has made such a move. Almost two years ago, it announced that it would allow the installation of non-certified angle of attack indicators in certified airplanes.

While, in theory, it’s an amazing idea, I’m skeptical about any widespread safety benefit of AOA instruments in GA birds flown by pilots with little or no professional training, the move signaled a change in the way the FAA viewed certification and risk. Instead of looking at the certification process, like it always had before, as a series of elaborate data-intensive hoops to jump through, the agency is now increasingly looking at it as a calculus driven by a single, magic question. Does the installation of the new instrument improve safety, degrade it or leave it unchanged?

In the case of the Dynon instrument, it without a shadow of a doubt improves safety tremendously. The lack of certification isn’t a net loss at all. In the case of an instrument that’s solid state with a digital display, it’s hard to imagine a hardware technology leap anymore profound than the spinning metal-teethed gyros of a dusty, old mechanical unit. Just because the new products haven’t gone through the million-dollar FAA wringer doesn’t mean they’re less safe than what they’re replacing, only that the FAA is less certain about their safety than they possibly could be. The net effect, and this is what really matters, is that these new instruments are 1,000 times safer than the mechanical ones they replace instead of 1,001 times safer (figures that are, of course, for the purpose of argument).

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I don’t know about you, but we’ll give up that potential one-tenth of a percentage point for the million dollar savings any day of the week.

So congrats to Dynon, the FAA, and to EAA for its work on the project. May it be the first of many more such approvals to come.

Visit Dynon at dynonavionics.com.

 

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