New noise standards hurt safety, small businesses

June 16, 2004

New noise standards hurt safety, small businesses

AOPA says a proposed FAA noise regulation would hurt safety and small businesses. Ironically, so does FAA.

In a classic bureaucratic "oversight," FAA's Environment and Energy office is proposing regulations to tighten the noise standards for small aircraft, but did so without talking to the general aviation industry or the FAA office responsible for small aircraft certification. Both AOPA and FAA (small airplane part) want the proposal changed or withdrawn.

The FAA environment office wants to reduce the maximum noise allowed by 6 dBA for newly certificated aircraft weighing less than 1,257 pounds (a four-fold reduction in sound) to a 3 dBA reduction for aircraft weighing more than 3,307 pounds. Under this proposal, a newly certificated aircraft the weight of a Cessna 172 would have to be quieter than a handsaw or lawnmower.

But the big problem is that the rule, as currently written, would apply to any changes made to existing aircraft that would affect the "acoustic signature." Change an engine or a propeller, and a 30-year-old aircraft would suddenly have to meet 2004 noise standards. That could significantly impact safety and utility improvements to existing aircraft, and the small companies that offer those improvements under the supplemental type certificate (STC) process.

In its comments on the proposed rule, AOPA noted, "Today's average general aviation aircraft is 30 years old, and many rely on STCs to allow for continued upgrades. These continued upgrades, including engine and propeller modifications, add to the performance and safety of the operations of these aircraft. The FAA should be promoting the development of these STCs and not hindering them with this type of regulatory change. By imposing this limitation, the FAA is inhibiting the continued development of STCs paramount to the continued safe operations of general aviation aircraft."

"This rule should be limited to newly type certificated aircraft," said Luis Gutierrez, AOPA director of Regulatory and Certification Policy, "and STCs should be excluded.

"And FAA really needs to talk to FAA. The Small Aircraft Directorate must be allowed to evaluate the impact of this rule on existing aircraft and the businesses supporting them."

June 16, 2004