FAA Certification Chief Promotes FBW in Light Rotorcraft

 - October 5, 2022, 1:46 PM
FAA's Lirio Liu hails the potential of fly-by-wire in light rotorcraft as 'a major advancement.' (Photo: Vertical Flight Society)

Lirio Liu, the executive director of the FAA’s aircraft certification service, lauded the potential benefits of fly-by-wire (FBW) flight control technology in future Part 27 rotorcraft at the Vertical Aviation Safety Team global conference in Hurst, Texas, on Tuesday. Liu called the future installation of FBW in light rotorcraft “a major advancement” that would enable safety-enhancing features, including flight envelope protection with implications to mitigate the leading causes of rotorcraft accidents including loss of control and inadvertent flight into instrument meteorological conditions. “We have an effort underway to have fly-by-wire installations in Part 27 normal-category rotorcraft,” she said. 

According to Liu, FAA policy going forward would recognize the increased certification of single-engine IFR rotorcraft, low-cost autopilots, and helicopter terrain avoidance and warning systems as the agency moves toward a “safety continuum concept” in certification approval. 

Liu called on the industry to adopt more rotorcraft safety enhancements on a voluntary basis and praised the work of the industry in helping to reduce the fatal accident rates for air ambulance and utility helicopter operations since 2019. However, she said the climbing fatal accident rates for personal helicopter and firefighting flights remain a “concern.”

She also expressed confidence that the U.S. fatal helicopter rate, which has “remained stubbornly steady” would see mitigation with the adoption of new technology and the increased use of safety management systems. “But it takes time,” Liu said.