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EAA Responds to FAA Questions on Glider Transponders

August 20, 2015 - EAA submitted comments this week to an FAA advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) seeking input into removing the exception gliders currently have from FAR 91.215 and/or 91.225, regarding mandatory use of Mode C transponders and ADS-B out equipment in certain areas.

The ANPRM was largely prompted by a 2006 nonfatal mid-air collision between a glider and a corporate jet near Minden, Nevada. As a result of its investigation, the NTSB recommended that the FAA re-evaluate the exception for gliders from Mode C requirements. The issue was pressed further by letters in 2012 from Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada) and Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nevada) requesting that the FAA remove the glider exception from the rule.

In its comments, EAA wrote that a nationwide mandate is inappropriate, saying, “Use of specific collision avoidance equipment, if any, should depend on the circumstances of the operation. The nationwide soaring community is very diverse, and best practices for collision avoidance may change from one area to another based on factors such as geography, airspace, and traffic flow.”

EAA also noted that by the FAA’s own data, reported near midair collisions (NMACs) between gliders and other aircraft in the airspace contemplated for a mandate under this ANPRM numbered 45 between 1988 and 2014. This constituted approximately 0.51 percent of the total reported NMACs over that period. There was no indication whether the gliders in question were carrying transponders or not, and in busy areas such as Minden it is generally accepted practice to equip.

“We certainly do not discourage the use of technology that may help prevent midair collisions by the glider pilots,” said Sean Elliott, EAA vice president of advocacy and safety. “Indeed, it may very well be prudent to use Mode C transponders and ADS-B out equipment in some areas. But the soaring community cares strongly about collision avoidance, so much so that they have developed many innovative solutions to the problem that go beyond these specific technologies. Use of particular equipment should be set by community best practices, not a government mandate.”

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