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EAA Founder’s Prize to Accelerate Safety Innovation

By Randy Dufault

  • EAA Founder’s Prize to Accelerate Safety Innovation
    Sean Elliott and Charlie Precort announce the new incentive program for aviation safety.

July 22, 2015 - Tuesday at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015 Sean Elliot, EAA Vice President for Advocacy and Safety, along with former NASA Astronaut and EAA Director Charlie Precourt, announced the Founder’s Innovation Prize. Styled after the successful XPRIZE that launched development of the commercial space travel industry, the first goal for the award is to stimulate development of ideas and innovations that will reduce the current rate of loss of control accidents within the experimental-amateur built aircraft fleet.

 “The highest causal factor in today’s accident world of fatal accidents, both in General Aviation and particularly in experimental-amateur built, is loss of control,” Elliot said.

“Loss of control is on the top 10 hit list for the NTSB and is the theme for the FAA for this year,” Precourt added.

Loss of control is anytime the airplane goes somewhere where the pilot didn’t intend for it to go.

“Then bad things happen.” Precourt said.

Individuals and teams of EAA members (membership is required) can submit ideas through a special web site beginning October 1 of this year. Experts will choose five finalists from among all the submissions. Those finalists will then defend their concept, “Shark Tank” style, on stage at AirVenture 2016, in front of a celebrity panel chaired by Burt Rutan. The winning individual or team will receive a prize of $25,000, with $10,000 awarded for second place, and $5,000 for third.

EAA has a goal of reducing loss of control accidents in experimental-amateur built aircraft by 25 percent over the next five years and 50 percent in the next 10.

 “We are serious about this.” Elliot said. “This has become the top issue that we need to deal with in the General Aviation community.”

“The concept is that if you can demonstrate that you can dramatically affect the possibility of loss of control, that it is applicable to the broadest range of aircraft, and that it is economically viable to put in an aircraft or in an aircraft/pilot system.” Precourt said. “It doesn’t have to be about an airplane design. It can be about the way pilots manage an airplane, it can be electronics, it can be software. It can be all kinds of things. It’s totally open. We want to really stimulate the nature of our community and the innovation that has been so historically prevalent in the EAA membership.”

More details about the program and how to submit ideas, is expected to be available by mid September.

Solving the loss of control challenge is only the first goal for the prize. Elliot said that it will become a permanent program within EAA and added, “This prize is based on all of the traits and characteristics that our founder, Paul Poberezny really inspired.”

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