AIAA Panel Sees Light at the End of the Tunnel for GA

Group points to upcoming Part 23 rewrite as long-overdue medicine for an ailing industry.

AIAA Restoring the Foundation of Aviation
A panel on "Restoring the Foundation of Aviation" offered a glimmer of hope for GA's future last week at AIAA's Aviation 2016.AIAA

A few significant glimmers of hope for general aviation's future appeared last week during the Aircraft Design and Testing session of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) panel on "Restoring the Foundation of Aviation." Held June 16 in Washington, D.C., the panel hoped to add a few badly needed doses of reality to the upcoming rewrite of FAR Part 23.

Part 23 outlines the requirements to certify aircraft with fewer than 19 seats, a segment that has, for the most part, been dominated by upgrades to decades-old airplanes. The updated Part 23 should make GA aircraft creation less onerous and less expensive for everyone involved in the process.

One session example called for avoiding prescriptive language in the new regulation in favor of succinct simplicity. The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) director of European regulatory affairs and engineering, Gregory Bowles, who doubled as the Aircraft Testing and Design session moderator, offered an example. “To avoid burnable material aboard general aviation aircraft, the current rule defines how a burn test must be conducted,” he said.

The new rule cuts to the chase and simply demands the builder not use burnable materials.

In another, panelists looked at the GA accident record where numbers stubbornly refuse to decline. Several panelists suggested this “fatality line” might well shift in a more favorable direction because of Part 23’s more welcoming approach to innovation.

“The bottom line is new technology enhances safety,” said Andy Supinie of Textron Aviation.

To Rick Peri, the Aircraft and Electronics Association’s (AEA) vice president for government and industry affairs, that more welcoming approach could also mean that “autonomous” general aviation is on the horizon.

Several panelists hope the new Part 23 will open the door to applying entirely new approaches, such as the distributed electric propulsion technology of NASA's piloted X-57 SCEPTOR aircraft. Until now, certifying new technologies has often been "cost prohibitive," Peri said.

The new Part 23 is expected out before year’s end.