Why don’t airplanes have parking sensors for the wingtips?

At a recent aviation gathering, the topic of the Boeing 737 MAX came up. I gave my usual spiel about how TI was able to make the Speak & Spell in 1978. Why couldn’t a B737 have had a $1 voice synthesis chip saying “trimming forward” when MCAS was running, potentially prompting pilots to hit the trim interrupt switches much earlier. And why couldn’t the rest of our aircraft have voice warnings instead of simply beeping with different tones for different kinds of problems, e.g., gear not down, approaching a stall, etc.

An airline pilot responded “We lose millions of dollars every year from minor collisions on the ramp. If I buy a car for $20,000 it will come with parking sensors. Why doesn’t a $50 million jet have sensors in the wingtips to warn of a collision?”

I would love to know the answer to this question! It does not seem as though FAA certification would be a huge hassle given that the system won’t be used in flight. The sensors are commercially available from Bosch (parking ultrasonic; rear radar).

4 thoughts on “Why don’t airplanes have parking sensors for the wingtips?

  1. It may be that the FAA checked their mandate of “aviation safety” and concluded that minor ramp collisions are not a significant aviation safety issue. Much more of a mystery is why the airlines, who have to pay for all those expensive repairs, did not make collision warnings a requirement. I doubt that the FAA would have objected, just as the FAA does not object to all the expenses on aircraft interiors that are made to meet airline requirements.

  2. Maybe because Boeing, the worlds largest commercial airplane manufacturer, can’t even get the basics down–angle of attack sensors(!), engine and wing placement. If you can’t manage and deliver a safe product at a given level of complexity, how does adding more complexity make sense? Yes, let’s fill the cockpit with more switches, warning buzzers, cancel/override switches and the accompanying training, certification and maintenance for all of it.

  3. You know the answer: because FAA. FAA is the absolutely worst thing which happened to aviation; it managed to stall the progress in a/c systems for half century.

    The added safety from the informative voice annunciations is not easily quantifiable. The $Ms needed to certify anything permanently affixed to the aircraft are quite apparent.

  4. Why can’t they do it photogrammetrically? 360 degree cameras could serve a bunch of other useful purposes as well. (looking for ice, damage in flight)

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