Is It Working?
Manufacturers who have tried the new process said it can drastically cut the cost and effort to get a product to market, and in some cases, the time it takes to get to market.
“Our first approval took one and a half months from start to finish,” said Rosen’s Hanson of the company’s NORSEE applications. “STCs typically take one and a half to two years to complete.”
Along with the reduced approval time, the NORSEE certification itself is less expensive. “An STC costs a couple of thousand dollars to process, primarily because we’re required to use FAA designees to perform and review analyses,” said Hanson. Manufacturing costs are equivalent to the company’s certified products as all parts are made the same way. Will Rosen be able to pass lower costs along to customers? “We don’t know yet,” said Hanson.
What is certain is that Rosen has more NORSEE applications in the pipeline. “We have another one in right now and we plan to do two more in the next three months or so,” he said. “I have high hopes that NORSEE is going to be a good way for us to go,” said Hanson, “because we have fairly simple products that pilots love and want.”
Jeff Bethel, owner and founder of avionics company, AeroVonics, said the cost of creating and getting a product to market will be about 90-percent less for NORSEE than for the traditional STC route, although he could not say the same about the time it takes to complete the process. AeroVonics, which gained NORSEE approval for its multifunction display in October 2018, has arguably the most complex device approved under the policy to date. The AV-20 provides angle-of-attack, G-meter, attitude, airspeed, and other information on a 2-inch display.
The AV-20 provides angle of attack, G-meter, attitude, airspeed, and other information on a 2-inch display. Photo by Mike Collins, (c) AOPA. Used with permission.
As the complexity of a NORSEE component increases, the review and approval time also increases. The time to complete a NORSEE approval is also dependent on the applicant’s previous knowledge and experience with FAA certification processes. Each NORSEE project requires one-on-one help and guidance to develop the NORSEE documentation. “There is a learning curve, but after the applicant has demonstrated the ability to provide the required documentation needed for NORSEE, we expect the approval times to decrease,” Raspanti said. “For Rosen Sun Visors, we worked together on the NORSEE documents for the initial approval.” If future NORSEE applications mirror the same format, Raspanti said he expects approvals for similar sun visors on other aircraft to achieve more timely approvals.
One improvement that has been implemented is the help and guidance provided by Raspanti to inexperienced NORSEE applicants. “It was apparent they needed help in preparing the letters, design standards, and installation documentation for a NORSEE device,” he said. We provide guidance to help those applicants with little to no engineering experience develop NORSEE documentation that will be acceptable to the FAA.
“What John is doing is building a basis for a general template to go along with these approvals,” said Vilante. “He’s developing a common denominator on what everyone should have in their data package. The approvals will occur on a case-by-case basis.”
The NORSEE policy envisions other ACO branches “eventually” joining the program so that applicants can apply through their local offices. For now, though, everything is being routed through the Chicago ACO branch to ensure consistency in evaluating the applications and to develop a documentation process that will mature “as we get more exposure to various NORSEE products coming to the market,” said Vilante.
John Croft is an FAA flight instructor and a writer/editor in the NextGen Updates and Messaging Branch. Croft uses ADS-B in the Piper Archer he co-owns with two other pilots, and he regularly flies a small team of FAA communicators to talk to pilots and other stakeholders about ADS-B.
This article was originally published in the May/June 2019 issue of FAA Safety Briefing magazine.