FAA is not being creative enough in thinking about this - which is a shame, because the organization has shown bursts of creativity in the past (Part 103, LSA)
FAA should offer several levels of certification as options for private aircraft - but eliminate the requirement for certification (at least for private use). This may seem radical, even shocking, but consider: cars are not safety-certificated by any Federal agency (their fuel efficiency, yes, but not safety).
Then, demand for its certification services would help it to determine how conservative it needs to be. It could even think about offering different levels of certification.
We already see lots of people flying Experimental (almost, but not quite entirely lacking FAA oversight in their design and construction), pointing to a portion of the market that is willing to use other indications of airworthiness, at a price.
At the other end, well-heeled buyers want "nothing but the best" for themselves and their families, and "wouldn't be caught dead" in an Experimental aircraft.
So, there is demand for both extremes, and probably several levels in between.
Also, FAA should provide for a path to certification via fleet experience. Essentially, if, say, Vans or Rans can document that a fleet of RV-7s or S-6s has accumulated more than 5,000 hours of operation, there should be a path to allow builders who construct the aircraft exactly as designed, to apply for an FAA Normal Airworthiness Certificate (perhaps after a further test period for the individual aircraft). This approach would allow aircraft designs to be introduced at low cost, and only the ones that prove popular (as Experimental designs) would then go through the incremental cost of certification - which would be small, if fleet experience were acceptable as part of the flight testing.
"People are doing other things with their spare change and time. Until an in-depth, expensive and honest study on the many facets of appeal, training and retention is done by the GA industry even cheap aircraft will only see a marginal increase in pilot population."
I agree, cfiace, except for one thing—running a study doesn't change a thing. That study has already been run, IMO. Read Martha Lunken's column "A Tale of Two Pilots" in the October issue of FLYING....she hits the nail squarely on the head. It's a societal issue, not a temperament or "entertainment choice" problem. People don't fly because they don't want to fly.
"FAA should offer several levels of certification as options for private aircraft - but eliminate the requirement for certification (at least for private use). This may seem radical, even shocking, but consider: cars are not safety-certificated by any Federal agency (their fuel efficiency, yes, but not safety)."
Thomas Boyle, you're a genius. Seriously. Unfortunately, people are too scared and dependent on government to want to assume the risk that would entail. Plus, have you ever heard of a bureaucrat giving power and control back to the people they took it from? You'll see a farm fly before that happens. :-)