Flight & Alarm
AIRCRAFT COLLISION AVOIDANCE SYSTEMS
PowerFLARMs are a type of aircraft collision avoidance system that are used as an aid to alert pilots by emitting a signal if another similarly equipped aircraft is nearby. FLARMs are intended to be used as backup to the visual flight rule of the “see and avoid principle.”
Basic FLARMs were designed specifically for the sport of gliding in Europe over 10 years ago, with the aim of reducing fatal collisions between gliders where the greatest collision risk occurred during thermalling with multiple aircraft. The classic FLARM’s range was between 3-5 kilometres.
Their newer PowerFLARM technology was introduced to Canada in 2012 with an improved range exceeding 10 kilometres and is compatible with Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) Mode-S transponders(range of over 300 km).
Due to the shorter range of FLARM technology, which puts less strain on glider batteries, along with their light weight, we believe gliders should not have a transponder exemption in the Canadian Aviation Regulations.
FLARMs work by predicting and transmitting its own projected flight path. It simultaneously receives flight path projections from other nearby aircraft. An algorithm then calculates the collision risk for each aircraft.
The unit gives audible and visual warning signals when an imminent collision is detected, allowing both pilots to take evasive action, even if they are unable to see each other thereby avoiding a collision.
The human visual system is limited and cannot be relied on to always detect other aircraft. Pilots have cockpit restricted visibility and gliders are particularly difficult to see due to their small size and low profile.
According to the Soaring Association of Canada 2019 Annual report,
“Midair collision is now the leading cause of glider death in Canada if we look at the fatality statistics of the past 10 years.”
“What is particularly concerning is the number of near miss incidents. Four of them were other types of aviation (small airplane, airliner, skydiver) and two were with towplanes.
This is particularly disturbing considering the fact that our fatal accident this year was a mid-air collision between a towplane and a glider. These near misses with towplanes were directly attributed to a deviation from standard procedures.”
“We had a very bad year because we lost two of our members. We had a very bad year because we wrote off three airplanes.
We had a very bad year because we had a high number of incidents of pilots not following procedures. We had a very bad year because we are not learning from our mistakes.”
Most aviation accidents are easily preventable.
100% of gliding clubs in Europe use PowerFLARMs. Canadian gliding clubs reported 69% equipage with the technology in 2019. The Soaring Association of Canada recommends them and provides grants to clubs for their purchase. In addition, the SAC group insurance plan provides rebates for clubs that are equipped with FLARMs. The cost of a FLARM is $2,000 or less.
Though PowerFLARMs are endorsed by Transport Canada they are not legislated. Some countries in Europe have mandated FLARMs and the manufacturer is not aware of a collision occurring with their proper use.
What Is Gliding
FLYING WITH THE BIRDS
A glider is a type of unpowered aircraft built of composite materials with wide wings making it light enough to be able to soar like a bird silently in the skies. This recreational activity draws pilots from around the world to compete in races, cross country flight and aerobatics.
A glider’s ability to fly with no engine or propulsion is possible because of atmospheric phenomena such as thermals, ridge lift, and wave lifts. The pilots utilize the same instruments as with powered aircraft with the exception of engine controls.
Gliders can potentially stay airborne indefinitely if the conditions are right averaging speeds of 50-90mph and altitudes of 3,000-6,000 feet stopping at cloudbase. A record altitude of 76,000ft was made by the Perlan (using wave lift) in 2018 for the purpose of collecting high altitude air current data with a $3 million cost of the glider.
Gliding (also known as soaring) is a beautiful flight that only requires fuel to launch either by winch or aerotow. It is the closest that a person can come to realizing the ancient dream of flying with the birds.