David Learmount/LONDON

In a move anticipating European Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) action making terrain avoidance and warning systems (TAWS) compulsory, the UK Civil Aviation Authority is to order that UK-registered aircraft be fitted with the equipment from next January.

TAWS is expected to reduce dramatically the incidence of controlled flight into terrain (CFIT), the accident category under which more passengers are killed than any other.

At present, the JAA says, its Operations Committee has proposed TAWS installation according to the International Civil Aviation Organisation's Annex 6 amendment 23, but the consultation process has yet to start.

Having completed the UK industry consultation process, the CAA says it is acting quickly to avoid "prolonging the period of vulnerability or risk unduly". Action to eliminate CFIT tops the safety priorities list in Europe and the USA.

The CAA has held back from mandating the TAWS, which is new to the market, until now so that it could monitor the system's performance in service. Today, however, there are 40 TAWS-equipped aircraft on the UK register, says the CAA.

The authority says cost-benefit analysis has indicated that TAWS would prevent one major accident a year globally, saving the industry about £200 million ($330 million) annually.

The CAA believes this would save the UK industry £140 million over 10 years, whereas the UK fleet TAWS installation cost is estimated at £60 million.

The installation programme, which is confined to turbine-powered aircraft heavier than 5,700kg (12,550lb) or carrying more than nine passengers, is to be phased. New-build large aircraft (more than 15,000kg or 30 passengers) must be TAWS equipped by January 2001.

Airbus Industrie and Boeing fit the Honeywell TAWS equipment as standard. All turbine aircraft above 5,700kg/nine passengers without ground proximity warning systems (GPWS) must retrofit TAWS by October next year, but those with GPWS have until January 2005.

In-service small aircraft seating between nine and 30 passengers face the same rules and timescales, but new deliveries have until October next year to comply.

The rules apply whether or not the aircraft are used for public transport, with the exception of police aircraft or those used for parachute dropping.

Source: Flight International