WASHINGTON, D.C. – The FAA issued a final rule Dec. 16, 2016, that overhauls the airworthiness standards for general aviation airplanes.
According to FAA officials, the new rule will reduce the time it takes to move safety-enhancing technologies for small airplanes into the marketplace and will also reduce costs for the aviation industry.
“Aviation manufacturing is our nation’s top export and general aviation alone contributes approximately $80 billion and 400,000 jobs to our economy,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “The FAA’s rule replaces prescriptive design requirements with performance-based standards, which will reduce costs and leverage innovation without sacrificing safety.”
Those “prescriptive” manufacturing methods have long hindered development of new designs and technologies, causing aircraft certification costs to soar, according to officials with the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.
That’s why the Part 23 reform represents “perhaps the most significant and pivotal” reform for the future of general aviation aircraft, according to AOPA President Mark Baker.
“We acknowledge the FAA’s achievements with Part 23 reform and anticipate a much improved certification process for new aircraft with new innovations, exciting designs and technologies incorporated, but we must also focus on ways to modernize the existing fleet,” he said.
“General aviation is at a critical point in its history,” he added. “AOPA strongly believes that the final rule, once fully implemented, has the potential to create marked improvements in both the safety and affordability of the fleet — new and existing.”
The rewrite replaces some of the FAA’s rigid manufacturing standards with current industry standards, a concept pioneered by the light-sport rule more than a decade ago, officials with the Experimental Aircraft Association noted.
EAA officials said they have long supported the Part 23 rewrite to promote common sense changes, foster innovation, and improve safety for GA aircraft.
The stated goal of the of the rewrite was to deliver “twice the safety at half the cost” in new aircraft by making newer designs easier to certify and safety-enhancing equipment easier to install.
“We are very pleased to see this final rule see the light of day, especially as EAA and other GA organizations worked very hard on the FAA’s advisory rulemaking committee to offer suggestions to boost the GA industry in the nation,” said Jack Pelton, EAA CEO and chairman. “The changes in Part 23 will allow new technology and better efficiency in designing, producing, maintaining, and operating today’s airplanes and create future GA designs. It ensures a favorable regulatory environment for GA in the future.”
The General Aviation Manufacturers Association led the GA group work on this Part 23 rewrite, with EAA, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), and other groups closely allied with GAMA’s effort. In May, the GA groups urged the FAA to release a final rule by the end of the year.
While the Part 23 rewrite greatly helps in the certification of new aircraft, certain aspects of it also help retrofit and maintenance of existing aircraft.
EAA is leading the way in finding newer, more affordable ways to install safety-enhancing equipment in the legacy fleet, officials noted. This initiative had its first major breakthrough earlier this year with the grant of EAA’s STC for the Dynon D10/D100 series as a replacement attitude indicator in certain aircraft, and work continues to certify TruTrak and Dynon autopilots for standard-category aircraft.
“While the rulemaking’s primary focus is a proactive shift to proportional and objective-based rules within the Part 23 framework that will have a significant effect on the next generation of general aviation aircraft, the retrofit industry has already benefited from this long-awaited shift to proportional rulemaking,” added Aircraft Electronics Association President Pauls Derks.
“There are many elements to this decade-long rulemaking effort that deserve comment, but one of the most important is the concept and application of a safety continuum. In particular, the application of the safety continuum in certification of retrofit products that are bringing safety-enhancing technology into the light general aviation cockpit at a price that is appropriate for these older aircraft.
Examples of this include the recent application of this philosophy with products manufactured by Garmin and the retrofit STC by the EAA for attitude indicator replacements, she noted.
“Without the fundamental change in philosophy brought about by the Part 23 rulemaking effort, these products would not have been possible,” she said.
What the rule does
FAA’s new Part 23 rule establishes performance-based standards for airplanes that weigh less than 19,000 pounds with 19 or fewer seats and recognizes consensus-based compliance methods for specific designs and technologies.
It also adds new certification standards to address general aviation loss of control accidents and in-flight icing conditions.
“The rule is a model of what we can accomplish for American competitiveness when government and industry work together and demonstrates that we can simultaneously enhance safety and reduce burdens on industry,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.
The rule responds to the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 and the Small Airplane Revitalization Act of 2013, which directed the FAA to streamline the approval of safety advancements for small general aviation aircraft.
It also addresses recommendations from the FAA’s 2013 Part 23 Reorganization Aviation Rulemaking Committee, which recommended a more streamlined approval process for safety equipment on small general aviation aircraft.
The new rule also promotes regulatory harmonization among the FAA’s foreign partners, including the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), Transport Canada Civil Aviation (TCCA), and Brazil’s Civil Aviation Authority (ANAC).
This may help minimize costs for airplane and engine manufacturers and operators of affected equipment who seek certification to sell products globally, FAA officials noted.
The rule will be effective eight months from publication in the Federal Register.