FAA Will Miss Part 23 Deadline — By Two Years

The FAA will badly miss a deadline to overhaul decades-old light aircraft certification rules, a top agency official told lawmakers. News of the delay drew condemnation from members of Congress and aviation leaders, who say the agency is shirking its obligations, and raised fresh doubts about the ability of manufacturers to keep pace with rapidly changing technology.

Congress and President Obama gave the FAA a deadline of December 2015 to complete the hotly anticipated Part 23 rewrite, but FAA Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety Peggy Gilligan said during a House aviation subcommittee hearing that overhauling the regulations will take far longer than originally anticipated — two full years longer, in fact.

"As we do this, we want to be sure we're improving the certification process and not losing any of the safety requirements that we have in place," she said in response to a pointed question from Minnesota Congressman Rick Nolan.

"The schedule is somewhat slower than what the legislation had envisioned," she told subcommittee members. "The final rule is right now planned for December 2017. That is later than the statute that called for a final rule by December 2015, but again, first the complexity of writing the rule and then getting it published for notice and comment … will take a considerably longer time than was anticipated in the statute."

The delay means light airplane makers will need to slow development of new designs they hoped to introduce to the market soon, such as the carbon-composite C4 from Flight Design, which was due to begin flight testing soon.

The postponement of new light aircraft certification rules will also put severe cost pressure on manufacturers with next generation airplanes on the drawing board. General Aviation Manufacturers Association president Pete Bunce blasted the FAA for the delay, saying the agency is ignoring a clear mandate from Congress and the White House.

"We've been working on this initiative since back in 2007," Bunce said. "The bureaucracy is saying we don't care what you in Congress say, we don't care what the president says, we're going to get it done when we want to get it done and it's going to be two years late. And that's exactly what we have to put up with in the industry."

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