Night vision goggle maker ITT has increased by more than 30% its civil production capacity to put more goggles in the hands of the helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS) operators in the USA.

A crush of high-priority orders from the US military including the Army, to which ITT Night Vision is the sole provider of aviation goggles, has made it difficult for the Virginia-based company to satisfy demand in the civil sector.

The HEMS industry, which has come under scrutiny over the past year due to a high accident rate, is turning to goggles and other safety technologies to help.

Mike Alvis, vice-president of business development for ITT Night Vision, says the company has so far sold about 1,000 pairs of the $10,000 goggles into the civil market, a sector he says has a potential of about 14,000 units.

But a waiting time of around one year, based on its past production rate of 400 units a year, has resulted in potential civil buyers switching to a competing system built by Nivisys, says Alvis.

Arizona-based Nivisys received US Federal Aviation Administration technical standard order approval to sell aviation goggles in July 2008.

The order, which describes minimum performance standards for goggles, was developed using input from a government and industry RTCA committee that used a consensus approach.

In response, ITT in April began ramping up its civil allotment to achieve a rate of 650 units a year, which should decrease wait time to nine months or less. The company would like to boost civil production to 1,000 units a year, which could decrease waiting time to six months or less.

"Our competitor won't have an advantage at 1,000 units," says Alvis, who notes that ITT builds its goggles to military standards, which he says are more stringent than the technical standard order.

ITT distributes its aviation goggles on the civil side exclusively through Idaho-based Aviation Specialties Unlimited.

Source: Flight International