WASHINGTON, D.C. – The FAA has released to the public the 335-page report of the Aviation Rule Making Committee set up to recommend broad changes in the certification of general aviation aircraft in an effort to increase the safety of GA and reduce the costs of producing planes and parts.
After years of striving to get certification costs down, manufacturers and other GA organizations were able to have the FAA charter the committee in August 2011. The committee was co-chaired by Pat Mullen of the FAA and Greg Bowles, representing the GA industry. The committee was made up of FAA personnel and dozens of industry representatives drawn from all sectors of GA.
Over the past four decades, the report stated, the health and vitality of the general aviation industry has faded significantly. The public interest in GA is shrinking because of expense and the lack of new products. These facts are highlighted by the 40-year-old average age of the general aviation fleet and the steady loss of 10,000 private pilots each year in the past decade.
The committee, chartered to revitalize GA, formed three basic working groups:
- Regulatory Structure Working Group, with sub-groups of flight test, propulsion, structures, and systems.
- Type certification & Production
- Alterations & Maintenance, with non-commercial use subgroup.
Aims of the groups were to recommend changes in FAA regulations Part 23, the section of regulations dealing with products. The purpose is to make Part 23 more stable, require less maintenance, reduce cost for the FAA and to stand the test of time for at least the next 20 years.
Part 23 regulations have grown out of initial sets of design standards that began more than 75 years ago. Currently, Part 23 consists of 1,293 individual sub-paragraphs. It is expected new regulations and new ways of certifying planes and products can significantly reduce costs to both the manufacturers and the FAA and manufacturers. This should let manufacturers put new products on the market at less cost and, as a result, help improve safety.
The types of regulatory changes recommended in the report are shown in just the Structure Working Group’s proposals:
1. Define regulations for safety, not design solutions that are assumed to achieve an acceptable level of safety.
2. Define safety regulations in a way that is independent of aircraft performance level, complexity, or configuration, such as define what is expected and enforceable, but not “how.”
3. The new regulations should be written such that new technology can be easily integrated into aircraft while maintaining or improving safety for current or past technology with reduced, or at least no increase, in certification costs.
4. The new regulations must not contain any prescribed technical requirements but rather suitable safety recommendations that will not require changing for the foreseeable future.
5. The new regulations must be general enough to apply across the full spectrum of Part 23 airplanes.
6. Add scope and purpose in the rules to serve as guidance for new technologies (standards) to meet the objective. The regulatory text is often too high level to fully understand the intent.
7. Make use of international airworthiness standards for acceptable means of compliance to the new Part 23, as well as guidance material to assist in the use of the standards. These standards would contain the requirements that would be based on the performance level, aircraft complexity, configuration, and operational use.
Officials with the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) are delighted with this step in the effort to change the regulations. A spokesman said it takes steps to show advancements in revitalizing general aviation and moves ahead as the Congress has been supporting.
There is still a long way to go before any significant changes can be seen in certification. At best, it is expected some two years will be needed for the FAA to issue certification changes.