FAA’s Certification Reform Program Progressing

At Redbird’s annual migration on Tuesday, Pete Bunce, president of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, gave an update on the FAA’s efforts to modernize the agency’s airplane certification paradigm. The idea is to make it easier for manufacturers to certify airplanes as appropriate to the airplane’s complexity instead of, in Bunce’s words, certifying them to the “highest common denominator.”

Bunce said that the ASTM committee meeting with industry reps from around the globe gave him hope that the international standards body, ICAO, could arrive at international standards, so an airplane built in one country would be certification compliant in another country.

Moreover, Bunce said, the FAA is on board. “When the FAA coins the term ‘Twice the safety, half the cost,’ I get excited.” He added that the agency is even beginning to talk about the possibility of applying ASTM (industry best practice) standards to large GA aircraft, including rotorcraft.

Bunce said that the initial efforts are to define which airplanes will receive which level of certification scrutiny from the FAA during certification. Bunce identified three classes of airplanes, the simplest with fixed gear and modest performance, would be the easiest to certify, a mid-level airplane with a ceiling of up to 25,000 feet and a top speed of Mach .60 would enjoy more reasonable standards than today, and the highest performing airplanes, the third level, would get the full attention of the FAA, as is the case today, though at more reasonable costs and with much of the needless complexity gone.

The next step will be to define exactly what kinds of certification relief the lower and mid-level performance airplanes would get under the new regulations.

Bunce said the agency hopes to have a rule in place by 2016, a timetable that seems long, though considering the complexity of the project, an ambitious one as well.


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