Bell displayed a large-scale mockup of its Nexus, a hybrid-electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft that targets on-demand mobility. It was the centerpiece of Bell's exhibit at HAI Heli-Expo 2019. Photo by Mike Collins.
From the movement toward electric propulsion of aircraft to the regulatory framework needed to get the new machines flying, there’s much work ahead, said David Oord, AOPA senior director of regulatory affairs, who represented AOPA members at the fourth annual FAA/Industry Engine Summit Sept. 17 and 18.
Oord highlighted developments that emerged as front-of-mind features of the session for the manufacturers, industry groups, and regulators present at the session hosted by the FAA Engine and Propeller Standards Branch at the FAA’s New England Regional office in Burlington, Massachusetts:
- Aircraft powered completely or partly by harnessing electric propulsion have been in the news recently as new designs or as retrofits—but what will it take to make the engineering visions of the rapidly developing industry segment practical? Public/private collaboration and cooperation will be the key, Oord said. The standards-writing organization ASTM International is on the case, with the FAA using ASTM’s draft standards as its basis for future rulemaking, Oord said. If new rules are not ready in time to meet expected demands for certification, an interim remedy making use of a regulation that deals with “special conditions” such as the certification of “nonconventional aircraft” may come into play.
- Aviation mechanics will have to be trained to keep the aircraft of the present and future—many of composite construction with hybrid power systems—flying. New airman certification standards for mechanics have been developed by an industry-led Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee Airman Certification System working group, chaired by AOPA. The new standards are on track to be published in 2020 to take effect in 2021, giving aviation mechanic schools time to incorporate them into their curricula. “With an ever-aging fleet, coupled with new designs and technologies, it will be critical to have mechanics who are trained and certified to maintain the aircraft,” Oord said.
- Moving forward, the annual engine summit will continue to serve as a forum for ideas about ways to improve the system for certifying and modifying GA aircraft. Equally important, Oord said, is the summit’s role in leveraging existing methods of keeping an aging fleet safe, such as encouraging use of the FAA’s airworthiness concern sheet process. AOPA strongly supports this process for its proven value in collecting in-the-field information from operators of specific aircraft makes and models, helping the FAA determine data-driven solutions to address incident reports involving aircraft systems or components. “AOPA looks forward to continuing this yearly engagement with the FAA and the industry into the future,” he said.