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Do the CAA/FAA obstruct Flight Safety?

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Do the CAA/FAA obstruct Flight Safety?

Old 2nd Aug 2004, 20:10
  #1 (permalink)  
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Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: Minnesota
Posts: 139
Do the CAA/FAA obstruct Flight Safety?

There are sensible things one could and should do to reduce the risks inherent in flying, but you cannot reduce any of them to zero. (Aside from not flying at all)
Therefore one must use reasonable judgment, and good assessment of the odds against failure to ensure as far as possible a safe flight.
It seems to me there is a major obstruction in improving flight safety, and that is the CAA/FAA. I have a theory:

There are many traditionalists in flying who will tell you that only the tried/tested/approved things are safe. This thinking, IMHO, makes approval of modifications to GA aircraft so expensive and difficult, it in fact contributes to the dangers, because it financially inhibits carrying out improvements/updates to existing aircraft. For example, most aero engines flying today belong in the technological ark, they are so outdated. It would be safer, cheaper and more reliable to replace magnetos with battery powered ignition modules, it would be safer/more reliable, and more efficient to replace carburetors with manifold fuel injection systems. Given the option, would most GA pilots prefer to use GPS as their primary navigation tool instead VOR/DME, or ADF? True these updates are available, but at a huge price. I believe the reason they are so expensive, is because of the 'certification requirements' and what I see as CAA/FAA failure to actively encourage safety improvements to GA aircraft. The CAA/FAA should strongly recommend updates be done to make GA aircraft more reliable and cheaper to operate, and work with the manufacturer to ensure the cost of these improvements are not prohibitive. Instead the status quo is maintained by requiring the aircraft to be maintained as it was when it left the factory, (excluding A.D's) no matter how many years ago that was, or pay the exorbitant cost of installing 'approved' updates, along with all the attendant CAA/FAA certification costs, thereby ensuring most GA pilots fly engines with 1930's technology, with all the inherent maintenance issues.

No matter how well intentioned, surely with all the modern technology that could be used to improve flight safety, the CAA/FAA must be held to account for holding back, by excessive caution, and increasing the costs with their certification requirements, what it should be actively promoting.

Well that's my theory anyway.
Sorry I've been so rambling, but I do feel there is so much that could be done in the field of GA flight safety, reliability and cost containment that is not done because of obstructions from an organization that was originally set up to do the opposite of what they now do.
In spite of the fact the CAA/FAA say they know best, they have not convinced me they have my, or my fellow GA pilots, best interests at heart.
White Bear.
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Old 2nd Aug 2004, 21:38
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Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: EuroGA
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I agree that modifications should be made far easier to implement, and in fact the FAA does make it a lot easier than the CAA especially for minor mods like fitting a nonstandard instrument or an additional landing light.

Regarding high cost of stuff, the cost of certification or cost of product liability insurance are frequently given as explanations for the high cost of something.
Usually this is almost total nonsense. Avionics for example is a very slow moving market (compared with anywhere else where similar technology is involved), with most products having a 10 year run and some (about 3/4 of my panel probably) having been almost unchanged for 20 years, judging from the dates in the manuals. You recoup the cert cost in the first year and then you milk it for all you can. That's why you can buy a 300 PDA with a much better display than a 10,000 MFD.

No, the real reason why stuff is so expensive is that most of the players in this market are big traditionally managed firms, with big traditional overheads, lots of middle management, lots of real wa****s too, but they supply a relatively small market.

In addition, very few talented people will stay in such a firm for more than a year or two. I bet there is almost nobody really bright at e.g. Lycoming today. If there was somebody with more than half a brain at Cessna or Piper, what would they be doing?? Cutting out big rectangular holes in instrument panels so they can bolt in a big GPS? The level of excitement and challenge must be zero.

This results in poor design, plenty of warranty work, some made public through SBs and ADs, a lot of it covered up, and this keeps up the costs too. For example, brand new aircraft electrics are of the standard of a Vauxhall Viva.

How it got there i.e. why the market isn't served by smaller more efficient firms, is a good question. The experimental market is, and look at the stuff that's available. An autopilot which does everything mine does, 1/10 of the price. And wonderful high performance aircraft designs.

Ultimately, if you set up a regulatory agency, their jobs and pensions depend on them regulating (whether required or not), so what should we expect?
IO540 is offline  
Old 3rd Aug 2004, 07:19
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Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: Surrey, UK.
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Did you have a bad day at work?
rustle is offline  
Old 3rd Aug 2004, 09:51
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Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: UK
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I don't entirely agree with you IO540.

What you say is true - Cessna and the like continue to push out more and more new aeroplanes.... to 40 year old designs. Certification costs are steep, the CAA charges 151/hr for company approval work and 129/hr for product approval work. Those are steep - but you need not run up a huge bill; I've managed full certification of a public transport aeroplane through Gatwick in under 20 man-hours, which was trivial compared to the cost of the machine.

The problem in dealing with people like CAA or FAA is that they will not nursmaid any company through equipment approvals. So, you send the reports in requesting approval of your kit - they take a month or so to go through them, bounce it because you've fudged or missed a test or critical report, you then have to re-write and resubmit. All the while, your staff salaries, rent, etc. is building up.

The fact is however that very very few specialists know how to keep these authorities happy - I happen to be one of them, but my time is scarce, is it is of anybody else in my position.

So, companies are trying to get stuff through the authorities, and running up staff and resource costs over months or years whilst they try and work out what's required of them.

So, my criticism of CAA is not that they are anti-safety, that is not true. Nor is it that they are incompetent (okay, there are one or two, but on net, they're pretty good), but that they do not tell the industry what is required of them. There is, nowhere that I'm aware of, a document which tells you:-

- What qualifications they expect of an applicant for design signatory.
- A typical layout and content of a company exposition.
- What information is requried, laid out how, for approval of a VOR, panel-mount GPS, new undercarriage, silenced exhaust - or anything else, from a bolt to a complete aeroplane.

Nor does the CAA go to the universities teaching aerospace engineering and provide them with material to be included in degree courses, which would be the other way of doing it.

So, that's why it appears anti-safety, actually I think that they're anti-education. To be fair, the FAA are a bit better in that respect, but only a bit.

Genghis the Engineer is offline  

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