“The FAA's general aviation joint safety implementation team identified that AOA can save lives,” says Bowles. “The ARC has been working to streamline efforts to get that into peoples' hands, and the FAA is working on a process to do that, including a policy paper.” Industry officials say an owner today can install an uncertified AOA detector in a home-built experimental aircraft for about $800—compared to $5,000 for the same unit installed in a certified aircraft—due to regulatory requirements.
Beyond the AOA, Bowles says the list of possible safety improvements coming through a consensus process could be “huge”—airbags, parachutes, traffic alert and collision avoidance systems, terrain awareness and warning systems and more. “The thought process and mentality is beneficial for everyone,” he says.
Once the new Part 39 rules are out, Bowles says the immediate safety benefit will be for retrofits and alterations to the existing fleet of approximately 150,000 piston-powered general aviation aircraft. “When people see the price difference between an uncertified Garmin unit for the experimental market and the same unit for a certified installation, the price threshold is crazy,” he says. “The price difference from an uncertified product to a certified product will be much more graduated in the future. It will be much more gray.”
Reducing the certification costs will be a more streamlined process on the FAA's side. While the agency will continue to perform independent testing and make site visits and issue type certificates, there will be less bureaucracy in the process, in part because issue papers and other project-specific documents will not be needed, says Bowles. “In the future, FAA will have standards that match the product to be certified much more closely,” he says.