Certification reform will be delayed, FAA tells Congress

Delay inexcusable, reform critical to industry future, AOPA says

July 25, 2014

The FAA will miss a December 2015 deadline to reform aircraft certification processes by two years, the agency told the House Aviation Subcommittee during a July 23 hearing.

The hearing titled “Domestic Aviation Manufacturing: Challenges and Opportunities” focused largely on the FAA’s efforts to makes its certification processes more efficient in order to stimulate domestic aviation manufacturing and innovation.

Peggy Gilligan, the FAA’s associate administrator for aviation safety, testified that the agency is working to change its approach to certification, but said the FAA will miss a December 2015 deadline to produce a final rulemaking on streamlining certification. She estimated the rulemaking would not be complete until 2017, two years after the deadline set by the Small Airplane Revitalization Act passed in 2013.

It was unclear why the FAA expected to miss the deadline by such a wide margin, especially since representatives of the agency have spoken on many occasions about the importance of reform.

“The FAA has been working on Part 23 certification reform since 2008, so a two-year delay in issuing a rulemaking that is critical to both safety and the future of the industry is inexcusable,” said Jim Coon, AOPA’s senior vice president of government affairs. “This highlights the growing disconnect between the FAA and the realities of the general aviation industry.”

Concerns about delays and a lack of prioritization led Congress to unanimously pass the Small Airplane Revitalization Act. General aviation is a significant driver of the U.S. economy, accounting for 1.25 million jobs and contributing $150 billion annually.

“Unnecessarily cumbersome and uneven certification practices make it difficult for the general aviation industry to get advanced safety equipment and innovative technologies into new and existing aircraft,” said Coon. “The FAA needs to make reform a priority and ensure it allocates resources to get the job done so the GA industry can continue to fuel the national economy.”

The general aviation industry has been supportive of certification reform and representatives from a wide range of GA businesses and associations have participated, first in the FAA’s Certification Process Study and then in the aviation rulemaking committee (ARC), which provided recommendations for moving forward, including draft rulemaking language intended to expedite the process.

When asked if the FAA is in fact moving toward a promised risk-based approach to certification, Gerald Dillingham, director of civil aviation issues for the Government Accountability Office, told subcommittee members that the FAA is moving in that direction but faces the slow and difficult task of changing its culture as part of that effort.

In addition to Gilligan and Dillingham, others testifying at the hearing included Marion Blakey, president of the Aerospace Industries Association; Joe Brown, president of Hartzell Propeller; Pete Bunce, president of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association; and Dave Cox, lead administrator of the Air Washington Project.

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.