Bill would set timeline for aircraft-certification reform

May 9, 2013

Five members of the U.S. House, citing regulations that they say have been overtaken by technology, are seeking to set a year-end 2015 deadline for the FAA to act on recommendations being developed for less costly—and safer—aircraft certification procedures.

Their bill, the Small Aircraft Revitalization Act of 2013 (SARA), was brought forward by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) and a bipartisan group of co-sponsors including Reps. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), Rick Nolan (D-Minn.), and Todd Rokita (R-Ind.).

“Over the last 18 months, the FAA Part 23 Reorganization Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC), composed of aviation authorities and industry representatives from around the world, has worked to create a regulatory environment that will contribute significantly to revitalizing the health and safety of new and existing small airplanes. SARA requires the implementation of the Part 23 ARC recommendations by the end of 2015,” Pompeo said in a May 7 news release. AOPA participated in the aviation rulemaking committee.

The bill’s introduction was welcomed by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, which backs the measure as an initiative “that spurs the FAA to adopt regulatory change to double the safety and cut certification costs in half for light general aviation airplanes,” said GAMA President Pete Bunce in a news release. GAMA co-chaired the 150-member rulemaking committee.

Supporters see the reorganization providing a regulatory environment that benefits both new and existing aircraft by removing barriers to investment in new designs by manufacturers, and by making vital safety equipment available to existing aircraft without the prohibitive costs that are now involved.

Pompeo criticized the “existing outdated certification process” as responsible for an increase in safety and technology upgrade costs “by up to 10 times.” The legislation would cut through red tape and revitalize the industry, he said, adding, “With this bill, we can ensure that the general aviation industry has what it needs to thrive.”

The aviation rulemaking committee, chartered Aug. 15, 2011, was given 18 months to provide recommendations to the FAA’s Small Airplane Directorate for reorganizing the Part 23 certification regulations. The charter urged a focus on aircraft performance and complexity as the basis for certification requirements “written on a broad, general and progressive level.”

In an AOPA Live interview last November, Earl Lawrence, manager of the Small Airplane Directorate, said a goal of the reorganization was to create regulations to specify certification standards, with solutions permitted as appropriate for the size and performance capabilities of aircraft. Part 23 regulations pertain to aircraft ranging from piston singles to multiengine jets.

AOPA supports the concept, holding that existing “prescriptive regulations” cannot keep up with technological change, said Rob Hackman, AOPA vice president of regulatory affairs, who served on the aviation rulemaking committee.

The aviation industry seeks to develop the new standards through the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), which developed the standards for light sport aircraft. The FAA also could accept standards from other bodies. Because aviation authorities from around the world have worked together, it is expected that they would accept the certification standards, giving Part 23-certificated aircraft easier access to worldwide markets.

Consensus standards such as those developed by ASTM also require consumer involvement. Throughout the process, AOPA has urged type clubs and other industry organizations to provide their valuable insight into what pilots need from aircraft certification. Those interested in participating in the process are encouraged to join the ASTM F44 committee, which will create the new standards.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz | Aviation Writer

Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.