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Canadian Small Aircraft Now Require Terrain Awareness System

Canadian Small Aircraft Now Require Terrain Awareness System, August 2012In early July, a new safety regulation was announced by Transport Canada: All Canadian private turbine-powered and commercial aircraft with six or more seats must install a Terrain Awareness Warning System (TAWS).

Transport Canada feels the new TAWS ruling will improve safety for small Canadian aircraft, especially those in the northern part of the country, where there are few international airports and planes commonly fly into wilderness, mountainous regions or remote locations where there is poor weather or low visibility and a higher potential for controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) accidents — when a plane crashes into an undetected surface.

A spokesperson for the Transport Canada said the new ruling will bring Canada — which has been criticized in the past for having less stringent small aircraft aviation requirements — more in line with International Civil Aviation Organization standards for U.S. and European small aircraft.

In March 2000, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) amended the operating rules of small aircraft, requiring that all U.S. registered turbine-powered planes with six or more seats must be equipped with an FAA-approved TAWS.

How TAWS Works

Also known as Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System (EGWPS), TAWS cross references an aircraft’s navigation Global Positioning System with a worldwide digital database of the Earth’s terrain. If there is a discrepancy, pilots and crew receive an advance warning of terrain hazards — an audio and/or visual alert warning if a plane is in danger of colliding with a mountain, terrain, water or other obstacle. The aviation industry has recorded a number of “saves,” where fatal accidents have been avoided, thanks to a TAWS alerting the crew to the hazard.

Advocates vs. Critics

A member of the Transportation Safety Board said the TAWS requirement will improve safety in Canadian small aircraft, especially for pilots and crews who fly in the more extreme north in low-visibility conditions.

But some critics of the new rule complain about the expense of having to install new TAWS in their planes — each TAWS costs about $10,000 per plane to purchase and install. The price of TAWS is said to be going down, however.

Another criticism: The Northern Air Transport Association also warns that TAWS technology is not failsafe. A system can show “false positives,” and give a collision warning when there is actually no danger.

Transport Canada is requiring that all private turbine-powered and commercial aircraft with six or more seats must install a TAWS within two years. They are not requiring planes with five or fewer seats to install a TAWS.

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