Tuesday, February 7, 2017
Aviation Specialties Unlimited, (ASU) Inc., a Boise-based company, was granted approval by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in January to conduct commercial flight operations carrying passengers and cargo while using night vision goggles (NVGs) operating single engine airplanes. Operations are expected to start this April.
All the members of Idaho Congressional Delegation came together to support the initiative to bring single-engine NVG use to Idaho. The process took more than three years, and during that time, two of the delegation members, Sen. Mike Crapo and Rep. Mike Simpson toured ASU’s facility and were briefed by the company’s leadership on the challenges with the approval process. The local staffs of the delegation attended the ASU open house in 2015 and helped bring awareness to the life-saving potential of NVG technology by participating in discussions at other local aviation events. Over the past months, Idaho’s congressional members and their Washington D.C. staffs were active in placing several phone calls and drafting multiple letters to the FAA Administrator that resulted in the approval of single-engine NVG operations.
ASU is the first to receive approval to fly NVGs in a single engine airplane. This approval means that transport of cargo to un-lit FAA approved airports in the remote backcountry as well as transport of passengers and cargo to lighted runways at popular tourist destinations like Sun Valley, McCall, Stanley in Idaho and the surrounding Northwest can now be accessed at all hours. This new approval also allows ASU to expand training to other 14 CFR Part 135 Air Carrier operators.
ASU was established in 1995 and over the last 20 years has trained more than 6,000 pilots, crewmembers, and maintainers on NVG operations. Justin Watlington is the Director of Operations for ASU. In the past several years, Watlington has trained numerous fixed wing pilots on the use of NVGs and helped spearhead the acquisition of several supplemental type certificates (STCs) on fixed wing aircraft including ASU’s own Cessna 206 aircraft.
“This approval not only gives ASU the ability to use its own aircraft for charter purposes, but it also enables us to train other Part 135 air carrier operations on the use of NVGs,” said Watlington. “ASU is the first single engine operator to be approved for this operation. Anything that increases safety while operating an aircraft is significant for ASU, but also for the entire industry.”
ASU anticipates that their training program for this new certification will be in full operation in April. Daniel Hutchison Chief Pilot and instructor for ASU was instrumental in gaining the new FAA approval. He has more than 48 years of experience as a pilot, and more than 3,000 hours flying NVGS.
“Nighttime flight operations are frequently limited because of poor surface references that are necessary to avoid obstacles,” said Hutchison. “The use of NVGs provide greater surface reference at night. Airplanes provide additional flexibility and capabilities that helicopters do not. With this approval by the FAA, airplane operators that fly in remote areas will now be able to pursue NVG operations to increase the safety of their night time operations. At ASU, our underlying goal is always to help people return home safely after flying each night. We exist so others fly safer at night. Our entire company believes that this additional approval will ultimately save countless lives.”