Finally an airline buys a safety system long used in business jets but ignored by the FAA

JetBlue Airways has become the airline launch customer for the emergency vision assurance system (EVAS) which protects against the loss of pilot visibility caused by smoke in the cockpit.

Now that flight crews are to be "sealed" in their cockpits by new security requirements, uninterrupted crew effectiveness has assumed a heightened significance, according to Hawaii-based EVAS Worldwide.

In ordering EVAS for its 30-strong Airbus A320 fleet and the 60 more it has on order, US no-frills operator JetBlue is the first airline taker for a system widely adopted in corporate jet fleets.

A low-technology, low-cost solution long recommended by the US National Transportation Safety Board, EVAS had nevertheless failed to win positive backing from the US Federal Aviation Administration. In the 1990s, Swissair looked at acquiring the system, but decided against it prior to the Boeing MD-11 crash in September 1998 caused by cockpit smoke and fire. FAA certification for the EVAS system in the A320 is anticipated within the next month, says EVAS president Bert Werjefelt.

Under some circumstances, crew drills for the ingress of smoke to the cockpit involve opening the flight deck door to vent the area, so new cockpit security requirements make a system for assuring crew visibility without compromising security more immediate.

Werjefelt says that two potential European airline orders were lost through post 11-September cuts, but that negotiations with "significant" Asian airlines look positive.

Meanwhile the Royal Australian Air Force has ordered EVAS equipment for two Boeing Business Jets and three Bombardier Challengers, and the US Coast Guard and US Navy have ordered it for Gulfstream Vs. The system assumes pilots will don their oxygen-fed face protection masks in the event of smoke, and the EVAS assures visibility by inflating a transparent bag of filtered air between the pilots' faces and the windscreen/instrument panel.

Source: Flight International