VLJ Certification Challenges
European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) certification manager for general aviation Roger Hardy said VLJs are classified as high-performance aircraft (HPA). However, he admitted that the Part 23 rules are “frankly not geared to HPAs the way Part 25 is. It was drafted in the 1960s and has barely kept pace, with special conditions used to supplement the code to cover new technology such as FADECs and composite structures.”
Hardy said discussions are under way with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to harmonize the special conditions for HPAs, which now also include turboprops such as the Daher-Socata TBM 700 and Piaggio P-180 Avanti.
EASA believes the FAA gave the Eclipse a relatively easy time through certification, said Hardy, justifying it on the basis of expected reliability. But he also believes the FAA is now a good five years ahead of EASA in developing Part 23 standards. “It has a significant amount of AC [advisory certification] material, whereas EASA has no equivalent guidance material, and uses the FAA’s,” he acknowledged.
Hardy also said that with Part 23 standards being less stringent in terms of equipment fit and quality (for example, no requirement for airbrakes/spoilers, or for antiskid braking), there is “a greater need for regulatory oversight. In Europe you don’t want the occurrence rate to be higher than that of Part 25 business jets because airfields are often near schools or hospitals.”
The EASA official also expressed concerns about smaller companies developing aircraft. “Embraer or Cessna, for example, are a pleasure to deal with as they are Part 25 companies, generally, and so can elect to comply with higher standards,” Hardy said. “Merely certifying ‘up to the line’ is potentially a problem.”
An example for the Eclipse was a battery endurance of 30 minutes, which the FAA had allowed, but which was found to be too little from 41,000 feet in IFR at night to an airfield. “Eclipse argued its pilot had done it in 29 minutes, but EASA said go for 60. The FAA, too, requires that now,” said Hardy. He also expressed concern at the lack of a standby instrument and the fact that the hardware and software on all three systems are the same, so common mode failure can occur. “Eclipse and the FAA said it never could happen, but EASA forced them to put in backup AHARS and pitot-static.”