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GA welcomes 'pivotal' aircraft-manufacturing reform

The FAA has taken a “pivotal” step in reforming the rules for certifying general aviation aircraft—long an advocacy goal of AOPA and other organizations.

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.

In a notice published May 11, the FAA announced it has formally accepted standards of ASTM International, a nonprofit organization that develops voluntary consensus standards for materials, products, systems, and services, as a means of complying with the overhauled certification procedures for normal-category aircraft. The standards are developed by civil aviation authorities, including the FAA, the European Aviation Safety Agency, manufacturers, and consumers throughout the world.

The certification rules, known as Part 23 regulations, were revised effective Aug. 30, 2017, opening opportunities aircraft manufacturers said would allow them to quickly implement new and cost-saving technologies and production methods.

“These pivotal changes will bring new and safer technologies into the cockpit and reduce costs for pilots and operators,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “The entire general aviation industry worked hard to bring about these reforms and we applaud Congress and the FAA for enacting smart regulations that preserve safety and promote innovation.”

The new compliance options should accelerate development across a range of innovations including electric propulsion, and vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft, said David Oord, AOPA senior director of regulatory affairs.

“Until this announcement, the means of complying with the new Part 23 was the previous amendment 63, which was both prescriptive and out-of-date,” he said. “There are numerous projects in the pipeline that are relying on this acceptance, and this will speed their path to certification.”

The FAA’s announcement said the new means of complying with Part 23 will provide “at least the same level of safety” as corresponding requirements of the rule. It listed 63 Means of Compliance (MOC) it accepted that are based on 30 published consensus standards developed by an ASTM committee on GA aircraft, on which AOPA serves.

Of those, 46 are ASTM consensus standards accepted “as published”; the rest are combined ASTM standards and FAA changes.

Notable safety gains for newly certificated aircraft are expected in prevention of loss of control and improved crashworthiness, Oord said.

AOPA has been an active supporter of the effort to overhaul Part 23, led by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, and participated in the FAA aviation rulemaking committee (ARC) that paved the way for the rule change. The association has been an active member of ASTM’s Committee F44 on General Aviation since its inception and currently serves as the membership secretary of its executive committee.

AOPA’s advocacy also included strongly supporting the Small Airplane Revitalization Act—a law that bolstered the Part 23 reform effort by setting a deadline for the FAA to draft the new rules.

Looking to the future, the FAA said it expects ASTM to periodically review the consensus standards and reapprove, revise, or withdraw them within five years of their previous approvals. Any revisions of standards used as means of Part 23 compliance “will not be automatically approved, and will require further FAA acceptance,” the FAA added.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web 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 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: Advocacy, Aircraft Regulation

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