Do you use a handheld GPS with a moving map display in your airplane? How about a moving map on your personal digital assistant (PDA)? If the FAA had gotten what it first wanted, all of those devices would have had to been certified, and much more expensive. Fortunately, the FAA listened to AOPA and exempted most Part 91 general aviation operations from the certification requirement.
The FAA recently issued Advisory Circular 120-76 explaining certification requirements for computing devices used in the cockpit. Although the FAA had intended to require certification of all devices with moving maps, AOPA argued that the handheld GPS systems currently in use by pilots increase safety, and the continued use should not be jeopardized or discouraged by a certification requirement.
The exemption permits pilots operating non-turbine-powered aircraft under Part 91 to continue using portable navigation, moving map, and datalink equipment.
"Clearly, the FAA recognized the substantial safety and efficiency benefit these devices bring to general aviation cockpits when used correctly, " said Randy Kenagy, AOPA director of advanced technology. AOPA has steadfastly maintained that there is much to benefit, and little to lose, when these devices supplement pilots' operations."
AOPA also educated the FAA on the many new technologies emerging, such as those using PDAs.
Similar to the early 1990s when portable intercoms and headsets were the "must have," members renting aircraft have seen various affordable technology options emerge, which enables them to experience benefits similar to panel-mount multifunction displays, including datalink.