By Matthew Everett
The University of North Dakota, operator of one of the largest aviation schools in the world, is upgrading their fleet of aircraft to offer more modern safety enhancements such as airbags, glass cockpits with flight data monitoring.
The university is working with Appareo Systems, an aviation software firm in Fargo, ND, to upgrade their glass cockpit aircraft with software that will allow instructors and students to view what is effectively an instant replay of previous flights. The software records flight data that the on-board instruments are displaying allowing instructors an insight into what the student may have been seeing or not seeing. Such recordings may bring to light certain patterns that might otherwise go unnoticed until they lead to a crash. Additionally, the data records would provide more information on the causes of incidents like recently when a UND student on a solo flight skidded off the runway on landing.
Flight data recording has long been a staple of safety efforts at airlines, whose large budgets and aircraft allow them to foot the bill and the weight for the often expensive and heavy equipment, but is only now beginning to filter down to smaller general aviation aircraft. Many flight schools and pilots still cannot afford flight data monitoring equipment, but thanks to their large population of student pilots, UND is able to afford this technology.
In addition to flight data monitoring, UND is adding physical safety enhancements to their fleet in the form of seat belt airbags. These devices have become prevalent in general aviation aircraft in the last decade and offer a significant improvement in safety. Historically tragic crashes are now becoming nothing more than a bent airplane and an insurance claim thanks to these airbags; a fact has not escaped many flight schools like UND who are rapidly adopting the devices in their flight training fleets.
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