Senate joins bid to speed aircraft cert reform

May 30, 2013

Bipartisan action in Congress to revitalize general aviation manufacturing by overhauling aircraft certification requirements has gained momentum, with legislation introduced in both the House and Senate.

AOPA reported when the House bill was introduced that it would establish a deadline for the FAA to act on recommendations of the FAA Part 23 Reorganization Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC).

For the past 18 months the rulemaking panel, composed of aviation authorities and industry representatives including AOPA, has worked to provide recommendations to the FAA’s Small Airplane Directorate for reorganizing the Part 23 certification regulations. The ARC’s charter urged that the overhaul focus on aircraft performance and complexity as the basis for certification requirements, to be “written on a broad, general and progressive level.”

The House legislation was advanced by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) and a bipartisan group of co-sponsors including Reps. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), the House GA Caucus co-chair and an AOPA member; Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.); Rick Nolan (D-Minn.); and AOPA members Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) and Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.). It would set an end-2015 deadline for FAA action on the ARC’s recommendations, which strive to achieve FAA Administrator Michael Huerta’s stated goal of doubling safety while cutting general-aviation aircraft certification costs in half. To date, the bill has increased to 21 cosponsors.

Pompeo told Politico in a report published May 22 that he expected House Transportation Committee action on the bill this summer. The report said he also blamed “consistent targeting” of GA in Obama administration tax proposals for thousands of lost jobs in the industry.

Late May 23, the Senate companion bill was introduced by GA Caucus members Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), along with co-sponsors and GA Caucus co-chairs Sens. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), and avid GA supporters Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), James Risch (R-Idaho), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), and Tom Udall (D-N.M.).

AOPA supports the consensus-standards concept, noting that standards developed through the standards body ASTM, including involvement of consumers, would likely win broad acceptance, easing product entry into international markets.

“We are glad to have Senators Klobuchar and Murkowski lead this effort in the Senate,” said Lorraine Howerton, AOPA vice president of legislative affairs. “As members of the GA Caucus and both from GA-reliant states, they will shepherd this legislation through the Senate process with great care.”

The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) said it was “very encouraged” by the expected introduction in the Senate of the Small Aircraft Revitalization Act of 2013, a companion bill to a measure introduced in early May in the House.

“Adopting the new regulations would simplify the current process and give manufacturers needed flexibility by allowing them to achieve compliance by meeting consensus-based standards agreed to by industry and the FAA,” said GAMA President and CEO Pete Bunce. “The current rules have hindered new safety-enhancing products from coming to market and hurt the lighter segments of the GA market.”