UK private pilots have their say on electronic conspicuity

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A survey of general aviation pilots by the UK Civil Aviation Authority has found that almost 90% believe electronic conspicuity would improve flight safety.

The CAA conducted a survey asking general aviation pilots for their views on electronic conspicuity, which entails technology being fitted in aircraft to broadcast their position. The survey had almost 1,600 responses, with pilots of single-engine, fixed-wing airplanes making up three-quarters of the total. Glider pilots represented 12%, with hot-air balloon, microlight and rotor pilots making up the rest.

Pilots were quizzed on their use – or not – of electronic conspicuity devices. The survey also explored the key drivers that may affect widespread take-up of the technology. The answers will help develop the CAA’s strategy for encouraging the use of devices across the general aviation fleet.

ADS-B is the CAA’s preferred technology standard for achieving airborne situational awareness for pilots and air traffic controllers. Interoperability is the overriding factor in the selection of any system, meaning devices simply have to be compatible to achieve any safety gains.

Only one in six fixed-wing airplane pilots reported using ADS-B already, mostly integrated with a Mode S transponder. A further third of pilots fly airplanes that are Mode S equipped, but have not been adapted to use ADS-B. Almost 90% of glider pilots who responded use FLARM – the anti-collision system designed specifically for gliders.

Asked if they believed that full electronic conspicuity across the GA fleet would benefit safety, nearly nine-tenths of all those who responded thought it would improve flight safety as a whole. Looking at the specific advantages of conspicuity, 83% of airplane pilots identified collision avoidance and improved cockpit/ground-based situational awareness as the principal safety benefits.

The survey also looked at the factors that would encourage pilots to use a low-power ADS-B device. Equipment purchase cost came out on top for two-thirds of airplane pilots, and compatibility with Mode S was important to six out of 10. For more than half the respondents, the ability to receive flight information or weather data via ADS-B was a significant attraction.

When it comes to cost, nine out of 10 pilots are willing to spend more than £100 (US$130) on new ADS-B kit. Forty percent of the respondents said they were prepared to pay between £100 and £250 (US$130-325) for a device, and a further 50% were willing to invest £250-£500 (US$325-650).

The survey results indicate that the GA community recognizes the need for expansion of electronic conspicuity use within the UK. The CAA believes that the take-up of devices will improve overall safety levels, as well as increasing airspace access for GA pilots.

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Kirstie joined the team in early 2017 and brings writing, communications and client experience with her. Now an assistant editor, she produces content for our magazines and websites. Away from the office, you will find her blogging on her lifestyle website or searching the internet for photos of sausage dogs.

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