GA Caucus briefed on efforts to double safety, halve cost

September 26, 2013

AOPA met recently with key members of the Senate GA Caucus to discuss ways to make general aviation aircraft safer while reducing costs. The issue was the focus of a Sept. 18 briefing held by caucus co-chairs Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Nebraska) as the full Senate considers the Small Airplane Revitalization Act. During the same briefing, Begich and Johanns announced that the caucus has grown to include 40 members.

The revitalization measure, which was sponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) and co-sponsored by 15 others, including Begich and Johanns, would give the FAA until the end of 2015 to revise small-airplane certification regulations based on the recommendations of an FAA advisory and rulemaking committee (ARC). A companion House bill passed unanimously on July 16. 

“This briefing on light aircraft certification reform was exactly the kind of thing the caucus should do—it highlighted cooperation between the GA community and FAA to implement real reforms that will spur innovation and improve safety in light aircraft design,” said Begich. “I’m glad the GA caucus was able to help build support for this important effort.”

Senator Johanns agreed, saying, “General aviation plays an important economic role, particularly in rural states like Nebraska. As founders and co-chairs of the Senate General Aviation Caucus, Sen. Begich and I will continue to find ways to inform others of its importance and advocate for policies that are fair to general aviation. The briefing we hosted last week on the small airplane certification process is but one example of our efforts to ensure your voice is being heard.”

During the hearing, AOPA expressed support for the proposed reforms, which the association helped develop as a member of a Part 23 aviation rulemaking committee. The recommended changes would make it easier to install safety equipment and bring innovative technologies to new and existing aircraft.

“It shouldn’t be so difficult or expensive for owners of older aircraft to get access to modern safety equipment,” said Rob Hackman, AOPA vice president of regulatory affairs. “If we can simplify the certification process in ways that make sense, then we can make more options available for today’s fleet while promoting innovation in new planes.”

In its report, the rulemaking committee made 16 recommendations, including asking the FAA to move toward performance-based safety objectives and away from highly prescriptive and technology-dependent forms of regulation. The objective of the proposed reforms is to make aircraft twice as safe at half the cost.

“Technology is moving fast and we need regulations that are flexible enough to apply even as new technologies emerge,” Hackman said. “That means developing rules based on achieving clear safety goals, not rules based on a specific piece of equipment.”

Other speakers at the event included Walter Desrosier, vice president of engineering and maintenance for the General Aviation Manufacturers Association; Dorenda Baker, director of the FAA’s aircraft certification service; Earl Lawrence, manager of the FAA’s small airplane directorate, and Kim Smith, manager of the FAA’s rotorcraft directorate.

“We appreciate the leadership of Senator Begich and Senator Johanns for holding this well-attended briefing to educate the Caucus on this important legislation,” said Lorraine Howerton, AOPA vice president of legislative affairs. “We are also very pleased the Senate caucus has grown to 40 members who have an interest in general aviation.”