Aviation advocates have been pushing for regulatory reform with the motto, “twice the safety at half the cost.” 2016 could be the year that their hard work and constantly lobbying come to fruition. In March 2016, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) published a proposal for new rules that would simplify the certification process for new airplanes in the private aircraft market. These rules comprise multiple types and sizes of planes including four-seat Cirrus’, turboprops and even small jets.
The regulatory reform will make it easier for manufacturers to launch innovative new technologies and cheaper for owners to upgrade their current models to those new innovations. The next step is for the FAA to gather public comments and hold official hearing that last 60-days. Although major regulation overhauls tend to take many years to process, lobbying groups are pressing the Administration to enact the proposed regulations by the end of 2016 due to the many benefits these new rules offer for the industry and consumer.
The newly proposed regulations call for international industry standards which will aid airplane manufacturers in other regions, such as China, Europe and Australia, to sell their products in the United States while still complying with all codes. Manufacturers are hoping to see significant drops in their certification costs but this will not equate to “half the cost” for the consumer. However, experts agree that there will be lower development costs combined with increased competition resulting in decent price drops to the buyer. Also, the new rules will eliminate the outdated language that makes it impossible for fully-electric or hybrid power sources to become certified. This will ultimately help reduce the carbon footprint that airplanes leave on the environment and open up the industry to an entire world of competition.
Part 23 of Title 14 found in the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) relates to airworthiness standards of issuance for specific types of certificates for all airplanes that contain passenger-seating for those aircrafts with 19 or less and a maximum weight of 19,000 pounds. These are considered to be recreational, personal travel, limited commercial and training aircrafts. This section describes specific design requirements and was made for airplanes designed during the 1950’s and 1960’s. Currently, the FAA requires design approval for those applications attempting to incorporate innovative technology that will result in a special condition, exemption or safety findings.
These procedures a costly to the Administration and entire industry which acts as a major barrier to certifying innovative concepts and proven technologies. Therefore, to encourage innovation and research and development while streamlining the certification processes within the government organization, the FAA has proposed replacing the requirements found in Part 23 with standards solely based on performance. The proposal to amend Part 23 is based on two components: establishing a performance-based regime and creating new certification standards for icing and loss of control (LOC). The new certification requirements would be adopted with the same performance framework as all of Part 23.
The changes include an overhaul of how airplanes are defined within the regulations including Airplane Certification Levels and Airplane Performance Levels. The following is a list of those definitions:
- Airplane Certification Level – A division created to certify airplanes associated with the number of passengers on the plane.
- Airplane Performance Level – Maximum airspeed division that work with Airplane Certification Levels to replace weight and propulsion divisions.
- Departure Resistant – Stall characteristics that make it difficult for the airplane to depart from controlled flight.
- Entry-Level Airplane – A 2 or 4-place airplane used for rental, training and flying clubs.
How this Will Effect the Aircraft Market
Most small airplane owners and pilots are interested in how these proposed amendments would affect their ability to upgrade the plane and replace parts. Others are hoping that once these regulations are adopted, manufacturers will launch new aircrafts with the latest technology at considerably more affordable price. The proposal provides several suggestions on how the rules will affect the market.
On such area that will be affected is the overall approval process for low-risk articles such as weather display systems, flashlights, small hand-held fire extinguishers and carbon monoxide detectors. Most of these items are off-the-shelf products but, surprisingly, it is difficult for an aircraft owner to install these articles on a certified aircraft due to the design and production details required to meet the necessary provisions.
The FAA is, therefore, providing an alternative method to acquire these products. This proposal would allow for the applicant to submit product information for each article without requiring the manufacturer of the product to get approval from the FAA of its design and quality system. This flexibility will allow for streamlining the approval process, which decreases the Administration’s costs and approval helps improve safety for those on the aircraft.
Unfortunately the proposal does not include information about supplemental instruments and displays, backup fight instruments, navigation displays or engine monitors. The question remains, will it be easier to install equipment that is certified under the rules and will the new rules expand the definition of items within this category? This is still yet to remain.
The bottom line is that, if approved, the aircraft market will be positively affected by this change through lower procedural costs to the FAA, lower manufacturing costs due to improvement of technology and a decrease in certification requirements and improve innovation. With a more streamlined certification process, less time will be wasted on red tape allowing for less overtime and need for additional employees. Also, it will help other airline companies around the world sell their parts and aircrafts in the United States giving the consumer much more of an option and create additional competition. Simultaneously, improved technology will create a safer flying environment for all passengers and an improvement in manufactured parts. Furthermore, an increase an innovation will certainly create new and niche airline component markets which will create jobs and significantly improve the economy.
Since these regulations were enacted 50 years ago, they are outdated. This new overhaul and amendment of rules will certainly benefit the aircraft market, the consumer and the United States Government as a whole.