March 31, 2014
Not only is this the first time night vision goggles have been approved for use in an ag plane, it is the first time NVGs have been approved for use in an airplane with only one pilot, period.
The FAA’s flight test pilot has approved the installation of night vision goggle (NVG) equipment in two ag planes. This approval marks a first for the aviation industry—the first time NVGs have been approved for use in an airplane with only one pilot and it is an ag aircraft! The tests were successfully completed by FAA flight test pilot Kevin Greene, with company test pilots Bruce Hubler and Joe Coppick. The formal approval should be processed within seven to 10 days.
Aviation Specialties Unlimited Inc. (ASU), an allied industry member company from Boise, Idaho, has teamed up with Hubler and Valley Air LLC of Caldwell, Idaho, to make this event a reality. ASU is a pioneer in taking NVG technology from the military to civilian aviation. The company worked with helicopters first and then ventured into the fixed-wing market by seeking and getting a King-Air certified for takeoff and landing. Prior to this, the use of NVGs were limited to altitudes in excess of 300 feet above ground level.
ASU then received approval on a Cessna 206 to use in a training course for pilots to receive an NVG sign-off. The course involves about eight hours of ground training and approximately five hour of flight training with the goggles. Valley Air’s Hubler and Coppick both went through the training to assist in the certification process and to later use the technology in the business, which routinely does night application without the aid of NVGs.
The FAA certification process used three different levels of experience for reports it submitted. First, Greene represented input from a test pilot with extensive experience using NVG technology, which is an important part of the approval process. Hubler, flying a Dromader, provided the second level of evaluation by a person with goggle experience and ag experience. He was certified long ago to use goggles in helicopters for the Army National Guard. Coppick did not have goggle experience but has been involved in both day and nighttime aerial application work. He piloted a Thrush and filled the role of a beginner using goggles for the purposes of the evaluation.
ASU will be the holder of a one-time STC for the equipment installation. It is still working on how the technology can be made readily available through the FAA process. NAAA will keep the industry informed on the company’s progress. A tip of the helmet is deserved to both ASU and Valley Air for the behind-the-scenes work they have done!
Originally from the NAAA’s website.