airplane2An Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC), convened by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), has recommended a broad range of policy and regulatory changes that it believes could significantly improve the safety of general aviation aircraft while simultaneously reducing certification and modification costs for those aircraft.

The committee, made up of international industry and government experts, was tasked with examining the existing standards for the design and certification of aircraft ranging from small piston-powered airplanes to high-performance business jets, that are contained in Part 23 of Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations. 

Streamlining the process

“Streamlining the design and certification process could provide a cost-efficient way to build simple airplanes that still incorporate the latest in safety innovations,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.  “These changes have the potential to save money and maintain our safety standing – a win-win situation for manufacturers, pilots and the general aviation community as a whole.”

The committee’s recommendations cover the areas of design, production, maintenance and safety.  The ARC’s goal was to identify ways to streamline the certification process, making it cheaper and easier for manufacturers to incorporate safety improvements into their products, allow for upgrades to the existing fleet, and provide greater flexibility to incorporate future technological advancements.

“The committee’s goal was to increase safety while simultaneously decreasing the cost of certification” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “The FAA’s goal is to embrace innovation and create a regulation that will stand the test of time.”

International representation

The Part 23 rulemaking committee included 55 representatives from the FAA, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), Brazil’s Agência Nacional de Aviação Civil (ANAC), the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), Transport Canada Civil Aviation (TCCA), New Zealand’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), as well as airplane manufacturers from around the world.

Among the ARC’s recommendations was the suggestion that compliance with Part 23 requirements be performance-based, focusing on the complexity and performance of an aircraft instead of the current regulations based on weight and type of propulsion. Under many of the existing Part 23 requirements, small, relatively simple airplanes have to meet the same regulatory requirements as more complex aircraft.

What happens next

The committee proposed using industry consensus standards to define a compliance framework that can be more easily amended to keep up with evolving technology.  This step would encourage innovation while ensuring that the FAA retains safety oversight.  The FAA will review the ARC recommendations as it decides how to proceed on improving general aviation safety.