FAA Proposes New Safety Rules For Certifying Small Airplanes

 The FAA issued a proposal today to change the way small airplanes are certified to “reflect the needs of the small airplane industry, accommodate future trends, address emerging technologies, and enable” the creation of new manufacturers and new airplane types.  The proposed rule would affect the airworthiness certification of airplanes carrying 19 passengers or less and which have a maximum take off weight of 19,000 pounds or less.  These aircraft are referred to as general aviation aircraft and are mostly used for recreation, training or personal travel.  This would include weekend recreational fliers, as well as executive jet travelers.

The proposed rule would change the current prescriptive requirements contained in the federal aviation regulations and replace them with risk and performance based standards.  This change in certification procedure was required by Congress in the Small Airplane Revitalization Act of 2013 which “directed the FAA to streamline the approval of safety enhancements for general aviation airplanes.”  The rule also proposes new certification standards for loss of control and icing.

Existing requirements for airplane certification are highly prescriptive today.  This means that the rules set out very detailed and strict standards that have to be met in order to receive FAA approval to manufacture aircraft or to produce FAA-approved components.  According to the FAA, these design standards date from the 1950s and 60s and make it cumbersome for manufacturers to “incorporate new or innovative technologies.”  In order to deviate from the prescriptive requirements, manufacturers today have to request and receive additional approvals from the FAA, which are costly and time-consuming for both the industry and the FAA.  The performance-based standards proposed in the new rules focus on the desired outcomes rather than prescribing specific methods for compliance.

In a written statement, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said, “This proposal would streamline how we approve new technologies for small piston-powered airplanes all the way to complex high-performance executive jets.”  According to Mr. Huerta this approach would accommodate”today’s rapidly changing aviation industry and technological changes now and in the future.”

I strongly support these proposed changes because they would allow safety enhancements to airplanes to be made without the burdensome process currently in place.


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