The types of Life Saving Equipment that is installed on your aircraft depends to a large extent, on how old your aircraft is, and to what certification standard you fly it to. A new aircraft that is operated in accordance with FAR part 135 regulations, and flown internationally, will have the most likely feature the latest, most up-to-date safety equipment on-board. If you are in this category then you may skip this article if you wish, otherwise I suggest that you read on.
My personal view is that aviation Life Saving Equipment can be divided into two categories, these are: 1.) Equipment that saves the entire aircraft and its occupants; and 2.) Equipment that saves individual occupants on the aircraft.
The first category includes devices that improve the crew’s situational awareness, which include: Electronic Flight Instrumentation Systems (EFIS) ‘Looks like several TV screens’; Multi-function Displays (MFD) ‘Same as EFIS but multiple information sources can be displayed’; Graphically displayed, Terrain Awareness Warning Systems (Class ‘A’ TAWS)/Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning Systems (EGPWS) ‘This system shows the ground even in cloud or darkness’; Traffic Collision Avoidance Systems (TCAS) ‘Shows you where other aircraft in-flight, so you don’t hit them’; Mode ‘S’ Transponders which enable automatic sharing of collision avoidance data with other aircraft and air traffic control ‘Prevents you from hitting other aircraft in-flight when equipped with TCAS’; Runway Awareness and Advisory Systems (RAAS) ‘Prevents you from landing or taking off on too short of a runway’; Sophisticated Weather Radar that includes both vertical and horizontal weather depiction ‘Prevents you from flying through hail, tornados, wind-shear and severe turbulence’; Heads-up Display (HUD) ‘Allows the captain to keep his eyes outside the cockpit while flying in zero-zero conditions’; Enhanced Vision System (EVS) ‘This infra-red device is night and cloud vision for aircraft’; Angle of Attack System (AOA) ‘This informs the crew of how close the wing is to a stall’, and lastly Airborne Camera System (ACS) ‘When mounted on a wing, this device will positively confirm if your under carriage is extended ready for landing.’
The second category includes devices that will save the lives of the occupants on board the aircraft, after things have gone wrong, which include: Automated External Defibrillator (AED) ‘Small portable device which restores a heart beat after a heart attack’; 406 MHz Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) ‘A truly global locator tracked by the global satellite system’; Smoke Hood/Personal Breathing Equipment (PBE) ‘This enables you to see and breath during a fire with heavy smoke, until you can exit the aircraft’; Portable Oxygen Bottle (POB) ‘Just in case the masks don’t drop in the cabin, during an emergency decompression’; Fully enclosed survival Life Raft with supplies ‘If you have to ditch and wait for pick-up, in most waters you will not survive with a only life-vest’; Portable Iridium Satellite Telephone ‘No matter where you end up, you can reach out for help’; and finally a subscription to ‘MedAire’, or similar service supplemented by an Enhanced First Aid Kit ‘There might not be enough time to ‘land’ and seek treatment for some ailments that might strike at altitude. This provides a direct, open line to professional medical treatment, while in-flight.’
Unfortunately many aircraft owners and operators allow the issue of cost to over-rule safety. If, hopefully never when, you are the victim of an aviation incident or accident, I promise you that you will absolutely rue the day that you chose to save money, when you had the opportunity to increase the safety of your aircraft, and the safety of all of those people who ride in it, including yourself. The catch phrase: “Safety is no accident” is so true!