The FAA FAR Part 23 Aviation Rule Making Committee (ARC) formed in the fall of 2011 met for the last time to finalize its recommendations for the overhaul of certification standards for aircraft weighing less than 19,000 pounds. More than 65 regulators and industry team members from the U.S., China, New Zealand, Canada, Brazil and the European Union met last week for the final gathering at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Daytona Beach, Florida, campus.
After a general meeting, the ARC broke up into several working groups and subgroups assigned to address different issues. The sub teams will keep working remotely to finalize their recommendations, which should be made public late this spring, according to Greg Bowles, director of engineering and manufacturing for the General Aviation Manufacturers Association.
The goal is to standardize aircraft certification standards internationally through the ASTM International Technical Committee F44 on General Aviation, which first met last fall, to simplify the process of certifying airplanes and modifications of airplanes and, at the same time, increase the safety of certified airplanes.
According to Bowles, the current FAA certification standards have become too targeted -- an approach that doesn’t necessarily enhance safety. “Instead of us steering an engineer down the path of ‘make sure the seat is dynamically certified,’ we’re going to say ‘make sure this cabin protects the occupant at a crash with this much energy’,” Bowles said. “The ASTM standards will then give people lots and lots of methods to comply with that.”
There will still be a Part 23 regulation, Bowles said, “but all the very detailed design stuff will be moved into industry standards.” While in some ways this might sound more complicated, Bowles claims it is not. He compares the new standards to the car industry and says “it gives us the flexibility to adopt new technologies and move forward much more quickly.”
“The consensus standards have really good processes in place for developing new products and bringing new discussions to the floor, so we will leverage those processes to keep things moving forward. We’re hoping to have our first set of standards for the general aviation aircraft world by about 2014,” Bowles said.