AOPA applauds new FAA certification standards that could lead to affordable technologies to improve GA safety
The Federal Aviation Administration has adopted an AOPA-advocated concept of multi-tiered airworthiness standards in a new advisory circular (AC) issued in March. That change could lead to more capable, reasonably priced avionics that could improve general aviation safety.
“AOPA argued that one certification size doesn?t fit all,” said Douglas C. Macnair, AOPA director of certification and regulatory policy. “The FAA’s new AC represents a significant first step in reducing the certification burden for general aviation equipment and could contribute to a greater availability of affordable cockpit avionics to enhance situational awareness.” [See AOPA’s comments submitted to the FAA and AOPA’s regulatory brief.]
Weather and lack of situational awareness are two significant causes of accidents. Widespread use of new technology avionics (digital communications, datalinks, satellite-based navigation, etc.) could reduce pilot workload and provide critical new information in the cockpit, including real-time weather data and ground proximity warnings.
Under previous certification guidelines, all new avionics would have been certificated to airliner standards that require a 10-9 reliability level (one in a billion chance of failure). New equipment would likely be too expensive and not cost effective for general aviation.
That’s why the FAA has now adopted multi-tiered certification for GA avionics and equipment. Advisory Circular 23.1309-1C tells manufacturers of general aviation (Part 23) avionics and other equipment how to demonstrate compliance with certification regulations under the multi-tiered approach.
“First they’ll consider what effect equipment failure would have on safety of flight, then determine the level of reliability needed,” said Macnair. “Failure of a com radio, for example, is not going to lead to an immediate hazardous condition. In that case, a 10-4 reliability level (one in 10,000 chance of failure) might be appropriate.”
AOPA noted that avionics failures are not a major factor in general aviation accidents.
The change could significantly reduce certification costs. It could also slightly reduce manufacturing costs. However, there would not be a reduction in safety.
If future new equipment provides enough operational benefit at a reasonable cost, pilots will buy it, AOPA noted. Those operational benefits (weather avoidance, ground proximity warning, etc.) may actually lead to improved safety.
“AOPA has been a longtime advocate for this more positive, common-sense approach to certificating general aviation equipment and systems,” said Macnair. “We applaud the FAA for its efforts to reduce certification costs.”
The 345,000-member Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is the world’s largest civil aviation organization. AOPA members comprise 55 percent of all U.S. pilots.
AOPA members own three quarters of the nation’s 192,000 general aviation aircraft.
April 5, 1999