FAA Suggests Legal Flight Without Outside View Below 100 Feet

Rule would allow landing without looking outside.

The FAA has released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that may allow some pilots to continue descending below 100 feet above the touchdown zone elevation (TZE) without seeing the runway environment. Generally pilots must abort the instrument approach and fly the missed approach procedure unless they can visually identify the runway environment at the decision altitude on precision approaches.

The new rule would apply to pilots flying airplanes equipped with enhanced forward vision systems (EFVS) using a real-time image of the flight environment while flying on straight-in precision approaches. Airplanes equipped with synthetic vision systems would not qualify. Pilots flying under the new rule would also have to meet certain training and recent experience requirements in order to qualify.

EFVS currently allows pilots to descend below the DA, but no lower than 100 feet above the TZE. With the proposed rule, pilots would no longer have to transition to looking outside the cockpit seconds before touching down on the runway. Instead, they could continue to use the real-time image of the runway environment on the EFVS until the airplane touches the ground.

As a primary source, only EFVS on head up displays would qualify under the proposed rule. EFVS on head down displays could, however, be used by the pilot monitoring the approach all the way down to touchdown under 91.176a operations. Honeywell claims pilots can “consistently and safely fly to Cat II standards using a head down Combined Vision Display.”

No new rules were proposed regarding reduced takeoff minimums for pilots flying with EFVS. Comments regarding this NPRM can be submitted until September 9.

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