Smoothing the arrival of new engine technologies and keeping up the good work to make today’s powerplants safer were spotlight topics as the FAA joined with AOPA and other industry members at the third annual GA Engine Summit at the FAA’s New England Regional Office in Boston Sept. 11 and 12.
Change is coming fast to aircraft design and technological innovation—but along with the progress come new questions that the annual summit seeks to answer through discussion and consensus.
An emerging technology seen as a means to move certification and maintenance toward digital-age efficiency is “remote connectivity.” The technology has been advocated as a way for approvals and inspections to take place without on-site travel. Remote connectivity was a recommendation for policy development by the Part 23 aviation rulemaking committee (ARC), said Oord, adding that AOPA supported the ARC recommendation and recently signed on to a joint letter, led by the Aeronautical Repair Station Association (ARSA), to the FAA.
In cases in which safety concerns may warrant corrective action to an existing aircraft design or component, AOPA continues to emphasize that the airworthiness concern sheet (ACS) process has proven a successful path to solutions.
Circulating an ACS prior to taking regulatory action gives aircraft owners, pilots, type clubs, mechanics, and other stakeholders an opportunity to provide the FAA with data that can lead to remedies less burdensome than a potentially onerous airworthiness directive (AD) being issued yet maintain an equivalent level of safety.
Oord cited several recent examples in which the ACS process resulted in fixes for a variety of problems affecting aftermarket engine cylinders; the revision of a service bulletin on worn camshaft gears; and the compliance conditions for an AD dealing with faulty fuel selector placards.
“The summit reiterated the importance of the FAA and industry coming together, as soon as practical, when a safety issue arises,” Oord said.
Aircraft accidents also went under the spotlight. According to a National Transportation Safety Board presentation at the summit on engine-related GA accidents, the probable cause was undetermined for about 34 percent of all engine-related accidents over the past five years.
“The NTSB expressed a commitment to dig deeper and make sure they are looking at all aspects to help determine causes—and eventually lead to solutions to prevent similar accidents from occurring in the future,” Oord said.
Other discussions at the summit addressed foreign-country validations of domestic engine approvals; propeller accessories; and an update on the FAA’s Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative, which this fall will resume testing an unleaded alternative to leaded aviation fuel, as AOPA reported in August.
The annual sessions confirm that it is vital to have all stakeholders—the FAA, manufacturers, and operators—participate in considering how to address present and future challenges, Oord said.
“AOPA looks forward to continuing the work and collaboration with the FAA and manufacturers to identify issues as they arise and work to quickly mitigate safety concerns in an effective and practical way,” he said.
Summit participants included representatives of the FAA’s policy and innovation, compliance and airworthiness, and propulsion offices; the NTSB; and industry members including AOPA, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, Blue Sky Innovations, Lycoming Engines, Turndyne, the Experimental Aircraft Association, Helicopter Association International, Ram Aircraft, McCauley Propeller, Continental Motors, DeltaHawk, Electroair, Superior Air Parts, and Hartzell Propeller.