4. How does a type certificate applicant comply with 14 CFR Part 23 certification standards under the existing regulatory framework?
For a manufacturer to obtain a type certificate for a typical general aviation airplane under existing regulations, the applicant’s airplane design must comply with the standards set forth in Part 23. The applicant has two “means” of complying:
- First, the applicant may demonstrate compliance with the specific prescriptive provisions set forth in Part 23 for each aspect of the design (e.g., structure, powerplant, landing gear).
- Second, the applicant may demonstrate that its design should be exempt from the particular regulatory standard or that it provides an equivalent level of safety for other reasons.
5. How does a type certificate applicant demonstrate compliance with 14 CFR Part 23 certification standards under the existing regulatory framework?
The type certificate applicant must show the FAA how it satisfies the applicable airworthiness standards in Part 23. The applicant commonly submits the type design, test reports, and computations/analysis necessary to demonstrate compliance. The applicant then approaches, negotiates, and works with the FAA regarding what constitutes adequate demonstration.
6. How does the Part 23 NPRM affect the current process of demonstrating compliance with 14 CFR Part 23 certification standards?
The Part 23 NPRM retains both of the options listed in Question 5 for demonstrating compliance with Part 23 certification standards. However, the proposal adds a third option: complying with “performance-based standards,” which the FAA has promulgated in the proposed Part 23.
7. What is a performance-based standard?
A performance-based standard establishes a level of performance that must be achieved through the airplane’s design, rather than dictating how a manufacturer should arrive at a particular level of performance. For instance, proposed § 23.750(a) states: “The airplane cabin exit design must provide for evacuation of the airplane within 90 seconds in conditions likely to occur following an emergency landing.” The standard states the expected performance of any proposed design for an emergency cabin exit—it does not state how the design should be accomplished (e.g., cabin lighting, marking) to achieve that performance.
8. How does a type certificate applicant demonstrate compliance with a performance-based standard?
This question highlights one of the FAA’s fundamental shifts in certification philosophy. The following flowchart illustrates the FAA’s proposed method for demonstrating compliance with the new 14 CFR Part 23 performance-based standards in the Part 23 NPRM.
Consider the following example to put this process in context: ASTM International is an organization with committees that are primarily composed of government representatives (e.g., the FAA) and industry groups. The various committees develop technical consensus standards for a range of different industries. Suppose ASTM publishes a consensus standard for the development of an electric propulsion system using batteries and fuel cells as fuel. This ASTM-consensus standard would be a proposed “means of compliance” to satisfy the new Part 23 fuel system performance-based standard. The proposed ASTM-consensus standard would then be sent to the FAA for acceptance. If accepted, any individual or company can then satisfy the new performance-based regulation in Part 23 by complying with that FAA-accepted ASTM standard.
9. Why are performance-based standards being introduced? How does this make the system better?
The existing Part 23 certification standards are very detailed—focusing more on specific design features rather than the system as a whole—and are based upon designs from the 1950s and 1960s. Because of the existing rigid framework, any manufacturer seeking design approval for modern technology often must provide additional documentation and data, which results in the FAA issuing special conditions, exemptions, or an equivalent level of safety (ELOS) finding in order to demonstrate that the manufacturer has complied with the certification standard.
- Example 1: Using the electric propulsion system example presented in Question 8; existing fuel system standards do not contemplate an electric propulsion system using batteries and fuel cells as fuel—the applicant would instead have to apply for an exemption or special condition. Under the framework proposed, an applicant would only have to demonstrate compliance with the FAA-accepted ASTM standard to satisfy the requirements of Part 23. The applicant would not have to spend the time and resources to apply for an exemption or special condition.
- Example 2: Current Part 23 crashworthiness and occupant safety requirements are based on seat and restraint technology from the 1980s. Existing certification standards require that an applicant demonstrate crashworthiness by a sled test. New standards in the Part 23 NPRM do not require a sled test, but allow for different methods accounting for many other factors. So instead of forcing an applicant into antiquated testing, the performance-based regulations provide flexibility on how to meet the broader crashworthiness objective. This flexibility can lead to new safety-testing methodologies and advanced safety technology.
As the illustrations demonstrate, there are many anticipated benefits from the proposed rulemaking, including:
- Encouraging the development and installation of innovative and safer product designs
- Streamlining the certification process to reduce the time and costs of certification for manufacturers/industry and the FAA
- Maintaining the same level of safety that currently exists under the current Part 23 certification standards
10. Are the performance-based standards applicable to all aircraft?
No. The new process of using performance-based standards is limited to new airplanes certified under Part 23, which would include airplanes with a maximum passenger-seating configuration of 19 or less, and a maximum certificated takeoff weight of 19,000 pounds or less.
11. How do the proposed changes compare with international standards?
The FAA has worked with foreign civil aviation authorities (CAAs) to ensure international harmonization of airworthiness standards and to address any unnecessary certification differences that may be burdensome on the GA industry. Foreign CAAs from Europe, Canada, Brazil, China, and New Zealand are in the process of producing similar regulations and rules as set forth in the Part 23 NPRM. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) published an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking in March 2015, which was also based upon recommendations from the Part 23 Reorganization ARC.