Introducing technology at heart of FAA-industry safety talks

January 29, 2014

FAA and general aviation leaders gathered Jan. 27 to discuss aviation safety and the need to bring new technology into the existing fleet during a meeting of the General Aviation Joint Steering Committee (GAJSC) hosted by FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. The committee, which is co-chaired by the FAA and the AOPA Foundation's Air Safety Institute, was created to bring a data-driven approach to managing government and industry efforts to reduce fatal GA accidents. The panel meets about four times a year.

Much of the industry-led portion of the discussion centered on efforts to allow new equipment into older cockpits, which could bring enormous safety benefits to the GA community.

“We need to keep moving forward with regulatory and policy reforms that support safety,” said AOPA President Mark Baker, who took part in the meeting. “Pilots want to be able to put the latest safety equipment in their aircraft, but we need to make it easier and more affordable to do.”

That is an important goal of ongoing efforts to reform Part 23 aircraft certification regulations. Pete Bunce, president of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), provided an overview of the completed work of the Part 23 Reorganization Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) and an update on the continuing efforts of the ASTM F44 Committee, which is developing the standards that will be incorporated into the notice of proposed rulemaking now in development by the FAA.  He highlighted the importance of keeping the effort on track.

AOPA has long been an advocate of streamlining the aircraft certification process, serving on the FAA’s Certification Process Study, the Part 23 Reorganization ARC, and the ASTM F44 Committee.

In November, reform efforts got a boost when the Small Airplane Revitalization Act was signed into law, giving the FAA through December 2015 to complete its Part 23 reforms.

But, Baker emphasized, the reform effort must be expanded to ensure that owners of existing aircraft can make safety improvements.

“Part 23 reforms are the first step, but we also need to make changes to other areas of the FAA’s policies, procedures, and rules to ensure the entire GA fleet benefits from a more effective and efficient approach to certification,” Baker said. “There are about 200,000 GA aircraft flying, and manufacturers produce just over 1,000 new aircraft each year. When you look at those numbers it’s clear that the biggest safety payoffs will come from upgrading older airplanes, and we need to continue to pursue changes to make that possible.”

Baker also noted that making it easier to upgrade aircraft will have another payoff—the creation of well-paying jobs for those who design, manufacture, and install the new equipment.

As part of the discussion of reforms, the FAA indicated that it would soon release a policy on angle of attack indicators, an important safety technology that could help reduce the number of accidents caused by loss of control—the leading cause of GA accidents. The FAA has been working on the policy for nearly three years.

“We look forward to reviewing the new policy and we’re hopeful that it will serve as a model for bringing other non-required safety enhancements into the cockpit,” said Rob Hackman, AOPA vice president of regulatory affairs. “Technology is moving so fast that the current regulatory system just can’t keep up. We need changes that will shorten the time to certification, make it easier to install new equipment, and give more pilots the opportunity to fly with the latest safety enhancements.”

During the meeting, the FAA administrator also proposed a joint government-industry effort to address weather-related accidents, the top item on the NTSB’s “most wanted” list for 2014. The NTSB has said pilots need to better understand how to get and use appropriate weather information and air traffic controllers need to provide weather data to pilots before and during flight.

“We know that understanding and dealing with weather are among the toughest challenges GA pilots face. This is an area where the Air Safety Institute has done a great deal of work and offers some wonderful programs like our Weather Wise course series,” said Air Safety Institute President Bruce Landsberg. “We look forward to working with the FAA to get this vital training and information to more GA pilots.”

In addition to AOPA and GAMA, the GA community was represented at the meeting by top leaders from the Experimental Aircraft Association, Helicopter Association International, National Association of State Aviation Officials, National Air Transportation Association, and National Business Aviation Association.

Elizabeth Tennyson

Elizabeth A Tennyson | Director of Government Affairs and Executive Communications, AOPA

Director of Government Affairs and Executive Communications Elizabeth Tennyson joined AOPA in 1998, the same year she earned her private pilot certificate. She also holds an instrument rating and enjoys jumping out of planes almost as much as flying them.