FAA Seeks Faster Certifications

 - September 4, 2012, 5:20 AM

In an effort to strengthen and speed up the certification process for Part 23 aircraft, a government/industry working group is trying to find a better approach to getting aircraft, avionics and powerplants to the market faster.

The Part 23 Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) came to life about a year ago to develop better ways to get the job done. About 120 industry and government representatives from around the world are participating in the discussions, which will lead to recommendations for a rewrite of Part 23 certification rules. Part 23 includes everything from single-engine piston aircraft to small jets.

Pete Bunce, president and CEO of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), has been traveling around the country to general aviation rallies, spreading the word of the need to give the FAA more resources to keep up with the burgeoning numbers of new products. GAMA’s director of engineering and maintenance, Greg Bowles, is co-chairman of the ARC, which has set a goal to come up with recommendations that cut certification costs in half.

The ARC is also looking at creating a new standards board that would draw on government and industry experts from around the world to develop standards for new technologies. The panel believes this would facilitate a quicker approvals process.

Review of Certification Process

On another front, Congress requested in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (FAA reauthorization) that the agency review the entire certification process. The FAA developed the report in cooperation with the industry through the Aircraft Certification Process Review and Reform Aviation Rulemaking Committee and sent it to Congress on August 13.

“This report is an important first step in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the FAA certification process, which is necessary to support growing industry activity in the development of new aircraft and safety enhancing technologies,” Bunce said. “The FAA leadership has made a public commitment to dramatic process improvement and has worked diligently with industry to establish recommendations and metrics that will be used to evaluate progress.”

The ARC found that while the numbers of applications for product certifications and approvals predicted in the one-year, five-year and 10-year periods following 2012 do not specifically reflect a significant increase, the actual aircraft certification service workload for the FAA is expected to continue increasing.

But the FAA has limited capacity and must handle competing priorities because it supports the entire product life cycle, including continued operational safety, rulemaking and certification and must address fresh certification processes for new technologies, such as unmanned aircraft systems.

The ARC believes the greatest increase in efficiency can be achieved with procedures that require a systems approach to certification, such as approved design organizations and FAA risk-based oversight.