FAA Makes It Easier To Replace Vacuum Attitude Indicators

New policy statement makes install a "minor alteration."

Electronic Attitude Indicator

Electronic Attitude Indicator

The FAA continues to make it easier and less costly to bring advanced technology to the cockpits of light airplanes. The most recent example of this welcome trend comes in the form of an FAA policy statement that will allow aircraft owners to replace older vacuum-driven attitude indicators with more reliable electronic units.

The policy statement, issued on September 14, makes replacing a vacuum-driven attitude indicator with an electronic attitude indicator a "minor alteration" under most circumstances for Part 23 airplane weighing less than 6,000 pounds.

"This new policy statement is a move in the right direction when it comes to helping owners increase their safety and modernize their aircraft," said David Oord, AOPA vice president of regulatory affairs, according to the association's website. "We hope this signals a broader shift toward commonsense, risk-based policies that will help keep the legacy fleet flying for many years to come."

The policy change permits the replacement of a vacuum-driven attitude indicator with electronically AI with backup battery that can include a secondary function, such as a turn-and-slip indicator. The FAA says the only caveats are that new unit must be positioned to allow for partial panel operations in the event of instrument failure and that it must include a dedicated circuit breaker.

The FAA a couple of years ago moved to allow installations of angle of attack indicators in light airplanes with an STC, a move that has led to the introduction of several products priced below $2,000 and requiring minimal installation expense.

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