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Part 23 reform: FAA releases final rule on small aircraft certification

The FAA has released a final rule that reforms small aircraft certification standards with groundbreaking new provisions that allow manufacturers to use performance-based, industry-consensus standards in place of the “prescriptive” manufacturing methods that have long hindered development of new designs and technologies, and caused aircraft certification costs to soar.

Part 23 reform is an important step to increase safety and lower costs for pilots and aircraft manufacturers alike. AOPA file photo of Mooney factory.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta announced the rewrite of the Part 23 airworthiness standards at a Dec. 16 media event at the Department of Transportation headquarters in Washington, D.C. Huerta was joined by Piper Aircraft President Simon Caldecott, who chairs the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA); Brad Mottier, vice president and general manager of Business and General Aviation and Integrated Systems for GE Aviation; and Joe Brown, president of Hartzell Propeller.

GAMA led the aviation industry’s effort to reform the Part 23 regulations—an effort AOPA actively supported by submitting comments urging the FAA to act swiftly to implement the rulemaking, as mandated by Congress, and by providing joint comments with other general aviation organizations on technical details of the proposed airworthiness standards.

AOPA President Mark Baker expressed appreciation for the FAA’s work to finalize the Part 23 rewrite, which represents “perhaps the most significant and pivotal” reform for the future of GA aircraft.

“We acknowledge the FAA’s achievements with Part 23 reform and anticipate a much-improved certification process for new aircraft with new innovations, exciting designs and technologies incorporated, but we must also focus on ways to modernize the existing fleet,” he said.

Under the final rule’s provisions, categories such as utility, aerobatic, and commuter will be eliminated for future Part 23 airplane certifications. Instead, four levels of performance and risk will be used, based on the aircraft’s maximum seating capacity.

Airplane performance levels will be designated as low speed (a maximum design cruising speed or maximum operating limit speed of less than or equal to 250 KTAS) or high speed (airplanes with a maximum design cruising speed or maximum operating limit speed greater than 250 KTAS).

Under a change to the proposed 14 CFR 23.10, now numbered 14 CFR 23.2010, an applicant may use consensus standards acceptable to the FAA to demonstrate how compliance with Part 23 will be achieved. The change creates flexibility for applicants in developing means of compliance, and identifies consensus standards that the FAA, and other authorities, may find acceptable—as proposed by the Part 23 Reorganization Aviation Rulemaking Committee that issued its report on certification reform in 2011.

“The intent of this is to create a regulatory architecture for Part 23 that is agile enough to keep up with innovation,” said David Oord, AOPA senior director of regulatory affairs. The current prescriptive compliance methods also may still be used.

Baker credited the FAA with keeping to its revised schedule of producing a final rule by the end of 2016. The rule will go into effect Aug. 30, 2017.

AOPA will continue to press for reforms allowing the existing type-certificated aircraft fleet to be retrofitted with modern, low-cost equipment.

“General aviation is at a critical point in its history. AOPA strongly believes that the final rule, once fully implemented, has the potential to create marked improvements in both the safety and affordability of the fleet—new and existing,” Baker said.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 35-year AOPA member.
Topics: Advocacy, Aircraft Regulation, General Aviation Manufacturers Association

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