AASHTO Journal

New Federal Rule Takes Effect to Certify Safety Equipment for Small Airplanes

On August 30, the Federal Aviation Administration's final rule overhauling airworthiness standards for general aviation airplanes went into effect, a regulation that the FAA said it thinks "will enable faster installation of innovative, safety-enhancing technologies into small airplanes, while reducing costs for the aviation industry."

That could affect numerous state departments of transportation that support general aviation infrastructure investments, and some that directly oversee aviation operations.

capitol0816.jpgSpecifically, the new rule "revolutionizes standards for airplanes weighing 19,000 pounds or less and with 19 or fewer passenger seats," the FAA said, "by replacing prescriptive requirements with performance-based standards coupled with consensus-based compliance methods for specific designs and technologies."

The rule also adds new certification standards to address general aviation loss-of-control accidents and in-flight icing conditions.

The small plane industry had argued for many years that the FAA's approach of mandating specific equipment was designed much more for the commercial airline market, but had the result of adding to costs for small plane owners that inhibited them from updating their aircraft with modern, off-the-shelf safety additions. Manufacturers said it also weighed on new aircraft sales and growth of the GA market.

But the FAA said its new approach "responds to congressional mandates that direct the FAA to streamline approval of safety advancements for small GA airplanes." It also, the agency said, "recognizes there is more than one way to deliver on safety. It offers a way for industry and the FAA to collaborate on new technologies and to keep pace with evolving aviation designs and concepts."

The agency said its new regulation also promotes regulatory harmonization among the FAA's foreign partners, including the European Aviation Safety Agency, Transport Canada Civil Aviation, and Brazil's National Civil Aviation Authority. "Harmonization may help minimize certification costs for airplane and engine manufacturers, and operators of affected equipment, who want to certify their products for the global market," it said.

Questions regarding this article may be directed to editor@aashtojournal.org.

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