The FAA has withdrawn an advance notice of proposed rulemaking that could have led to a requirement for gliders to carry transponders, a costly upgrade that would have driven many glider pilots out of the sky. AOPA opposed the change soon after the FAA issued the advance notice of proposed rulemaking in 2015, citing limited benefit and high cost.
The FAA published its withdrawal notice in the Federal Register Dec. 23, stating exactly that argument as the rationale: “The FAA is withdrawing that action because the limited safety benefit gained does not justify the high cost of equipage.”
“There is no increase to point to that should result in a change to regulatory requirements for this niche of aviation, especially one that could have a large financial impact on a largely volunteer/club based operation, or is based on the false perception of an increased collision threat,” wrote AOPA Vice President of Government Affairs Melissa Rudinger, in the association’s 2015 comments. “AOPA believes the proposal for glider aircraft to be required to have transponders is an overreaction to an isolated 2006 event that does not point to a pattern or a systemic issue.”
That 2006 accident, a midair collision with no fatalities, involved a Hawker 800XP business jet and a Schleicher glider. The two aircraft collided at 16,000 feet about 42 miles from Reno-Tahoe International Airport, and the NTSB subsequently recommended removing the exemption that allows gliders to fly without a transponder. That NTSB recommendation led to the FAA publishing the advance notice of proposed rulemaking to solicit comment on the potential change.
“Based on the information gathered from the ANPRM and a review of the current operating environment, the FAA finds that it does not have sufficient basis to move forward with rulemaking at this time,” the agency wrote in its withdrawal notice.
AOPA and the FAA noted the safety benefits of cost-effective anti-collision solutions, such as the Traffic Awareness Beacon System (TABS), and encouraged glider operators to equip. AOPA participates in several safety committees that are focused on avoiding collisions through education. The FAA Air Traffic Organization has made reducing VFR-IFR encounters one of its top five priorities for 2017.