Mandatory carbon monoxide detectors would have little effect on safety

June 30, 2004

Mandatory carbon monoxide detectors would have little effect on safety

An NTSB suggestion for mandatory carbon monoxide (CO) detectors in virtually all piston-powered single-engine aircraft would do little to lower the general aviation accident rate, according to the AOPA Air Safety Foundation.

"We found just 10 accidents caused by CO poisoning in fixed-wing singles since 1993 in our ASF GA accident database," said Bruce Landsberg, ASF executive director. "That's one a year. While we agree that an FAA-approved CO detector could be helpful, putting the money they would cost into pilot education on the much more common killers, such as low-level maneuvering flight and continued VFR into instrument weather, would be much more effective."

A market survey done by the AOPA Air Safety Foundation last week showed commercially available (non-aviation) CO detectors running between $8 and almost $250. Should the FAA adopt the NTSB suggestion requiring such units, the cost of CO detectors meeting a yet-to-be-developed FAA technical standard order (TSO) would almost certainly be a minimum of several hundred dollars per airplane.

Landsberg noted that the low-cost "color spot" CO detector cards found in many aircraft are usually not promptly replaced when past their recommended useful life, generally 30 to 60 days, and are most effective only when very high levels of CO enter the cockpit. A review of higher-cost electronic CO detectors done by AvWeb columnist Mike Busch found few of the units suitable for use in aircraft.

ASF was founded in 1950 as the safety arm of AOPA and is the world's largest nonprofit foundation devoted solely to general aviation safety research and education. It exists largely on donations from pilots and businesses interested in promoting aviation safety. For more information, go to www.asf.org.

June 30, 2004