Congress Mulls New GA Certification Rules

 - June 2, 2013, 1:55 AM

Congressman Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), whose district includes Wichita, has introduced a House bill to implement changes in the certification process for light general aviation aircraft. H.R.1848, the “Small Airplane Revitalization Act of 2013,” has already been referred to the House aviation subcommittee for further legislative action.

In a report filed with the FAA last month, the FAA’s Part 23 Reorganization Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) made recommendations that would–as stated by FAA Administrator Michael Huerta–double safety and cut certification costs in half for small general aviation aircraft.

Part 23 outlines FAA certification standards for most light civil aircraft weighing less than 12,500 pounds. If enacted into law, H.R.1848 would require the FAA to implement the ARC recommendations by the end of calendar year 2015.

The ARC recommended setting performance-based design requirements, rather than prescriptive, technology-dependent requirements that rely on assumptions based on weight and propulsion type. Adopting the new regulations would simplify the current process and give manufacturers needed flexibility by allowing them to achieve compliance through consensus-based standards.

Citing the significant time and cost necessary under the current certification process as the primary hindrance to the introduction of new and substantially revised aircraft, Pompeo emphasized the ARC recommendations would also spur needed innovation in the aircraft manufacturing sector by streamlining the existing certification process for most new GA aircraft and equipment.

“The existing outdated certification process needlessly increases the cost of safety and technology upgrades by up to 10 times,” Pompeo said in introducing the legislation. “With this bill, we can ensure that the general aviation industry has what it needs to thrive.”

General aviation interests hailed Pompeo’s bill. According to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), the current rules–which it describes as overly prescriptive, rigid and outdated–have hindered new safety-enhancing products coming to market and hurt the lighter segments of the GA market.

“GAMA is pleased that Representative Pompeo and his colleagues on both sides of the aisle recognize the need to embrace the ARC’s recommendations and adopt new certification rules so that manufacturers can invest in new designs and put critical lifesaving safety equipment into existing airplanes,” GAMA president and CEO Pete Bunce said.

“It has been evident for many years that the Part 23 certification process needs to be adjusted to better suit the level of technology available in general aviation aircraft today,” agreed NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen. “This legislation would remove the arbitrary hurdles in place under current certification standards, while also establishing a standardized, deliberative method to ensure that the latest operational and safety advances are available to the companies relying on business aviation, as quickly as possible.”

The ARC recommendations came after an 18-month review of the Part 23 certification process by 150 international regulatory and aviation industry representatives. The European Aviation Safety Agency has worked with the FAA to establish formal rulemaking initiatives to develop its new system. Other authorities in countries such as Canada, Brazil and China have been involved and are said to remain committed to adopting a harmonized global approach.