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Proposed rule will streamline GA aircraft certification

The FAA has proposed new rules that would cut the cost and time required to certify GA aircraft and new safety technology. AOPA file photo.

The FAA has announced a proposed rule that would make it easier, faster, and less expensive to get modern safety equipment into general aviation aircraft.

The notice of proposed rulemaking would replace today’s highly prescriptive design requirements with performance- and risk-based standards for aircraft certification under Part 23.

“This NPRM includes much needed and long overdue reforms to the aircraft certification process,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “AOPA has worked diligently with the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, other industry stakeholders, and the FAA to promote a shift to standards that maintain safety while making it easier and more affordable to bring innovative technology into GA aircraft. This proposed rule is a critical step in that direction.”

According to the FAA, the NPRM adds new certification standards to address GA loss-of-control accidents and in-flight icing conditions. The proposal establishes performance- and risk-based divisions for airplanes with a maximum seating capacity of 19 or fewer passengers and a maximum gross takeoff weight of 19,000 pounds or less.

While the NPRM focuses on design and certification of new aircraft, changes are still needed to make it easier and more affordable for the owners of legacy aircraft to put modern safety equipment in their airplanes.

“We hope that this NPRM, along with policy changes already in place to support the installation of safety enhancing equipment in GA aircraft, signals a new approach to regulation and certification,” said Baker. “One size does not fit all when it comes to aircraft equipment. With the GA fleet aging and just over a thousand new piston-powered GA aircraft being delivered each year, we must make it easier to upgrade legacy aircraft with a wide range of innovative safety technology.”

The NPRM acknowledges that “the current Part 23 airworthiness standards are largely prescriptive, meaning that they describe detailed design requirements, and are based on airplane designs from the 1950s and 1960s.” This prescriptive framework, the FAA says, means that applicants seeking to incorporate new or innovative technology are subjected to costly procedures and requirements that “act as barriers to certification, and discourage innovation.”

The proposed rule was developed in response to the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 and the Small Airplane Revitalization Act of 2013, which set a December 2015 deadline for the FAA to streamline the certification process for safety advancements for small GA aircraft. AOPA has been actively engaged in identifying ways to streamline the certification process, serving on the FAA’s Certification Process Study; the Part 23 Reorganization Aviation Rulemaking Committee, which developed the recommendations for reforms; and the ASTM F44 Committee, which developed industry consensus standards for the Part 23 rulemaking effort.

The public will have 60 days from the date the NPRM appears in the Federal Register to file formal comments on the proposal. AOPA will thoroughly review the draft proposal and file comments ahead of the deadline.

Elizabeth Tennyson
Elizabeth A Tennyson
Senior Director of Communications
AOPA Senior Director of Communications Elizabeth Tennyson is an instrument-rated private pilot who first joined AOPA in 1998.
Topics: Advocacy, AOPA

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