Clock is ticking for FAR Part 60 simulator rules

 - October 12, 2007, 11:59 AM

The FAA’s proposed Part 60 “Flight Simulation Device Initial and Continuing Qualification and Use” continues slowly on its journey toward implementation, but obstacles still stand in the way. As proposed, the new regulation would replace several existing advisory circulars and implement greater organization and structure to the construction, qualification and use of all types of flight simulation devices.

Part 60 contains information regarding such issues as quality control, simulator program administration, maintenance and data acquisition for new aircraft in service. It also includes four appendices that set qualification performance standards for airplane simulators, airplane flight-training devices (FTDs), helicopter simulators and helicopter FTDs. Those standards would expand on the regulatory requirements contained in the body of the regulation, as well as material of an informative nature.

“Something that’s not been done before, which has helped everyone understand the proposed rule, is a notice of online public forum,” Ed Cook, manager of the FAA’s national simulator program, told AIN. “The forum was open for two weeks on our Web site [] under the FAR Part 60 section. It was essentially a public bulletin board on which anyone could ask questions for clarification of the proposal. We would regularly check it, answer the questions and post them for everyone to read. When the period closed, we moved the entire contents–questions and answers– over to another area of the Web site [FAA-2002-12461-20 U.S. DOT/ FAA–Request for Comments: Flight Simulation Device Initial and Continuing Qualification and Use].”

Cook said the next step in the process is to review all the comments carefully. “We need to determine if there are recommendations that would enhance the regulation and should be incorporated,” he explained. “No matter how carefully we think things out, inevitably someone will point out an unintended consequence of a proposed regulation.”

According to Cook, one of the biggest concerns stems from the drawn-out process required to implement a new regulation. He said a regulatory change or implementation currently takes four to six years and about three to five years for implementation of an advisory circular. “The problem is since we first developed this regulatory proposal about six years ago, the international simulation community has gotten together and drafted its own set of standards, and ICAO is about to publish them. All this occurred while we were waiting for our regulatory proposal to go through channels,” he explained. “In fact, our office and the flight standards office both participated in the development of the international standards, as did representatives of industry. What you have is an international community pretty happy with the upcoming ICAO standards on one hand, and on the other hand our proposed regulation, which is not in concert with those standards.”

Cook said that he and the U.S. sim industry are in favor of meeting the new international standards. He doubts there would be any complaints about harmonizing proposed Part 60 with the ICAO standards.

Cook said federal law requires that Part 60 be implemented no later than June next year. “The Administrative Procedures Act imposes a time limitation of 16 months from the date of the close of an NPRM’s comment period to implementation of the regulation or it is canceled,” he explained. “The one thing that would change that date is if the legal department decides we have to issue a supplemental NPRM. If that happens, the 16-month limit goes into effect at the end of the new comment period. If legal says we don’t have to go the supplemental route, it is possible the new Part 60 could be published by the end of this calendar year, though that would be rather optimistic.”