Regulations and certification processes for aircraft will be streamlined and simplified to match the pace of industry innovation. A frequent criticism of the FAA’s current system is its rigidity in the face of new designs and technologies. Because of this, experimental aircraft often have better technology, including glass cockpit designs and advanced autopilots, which certified aircraft cannot afford to adopt. Industry members have responded to this lack of flexibility by demanding a regulatory overhaul, favoring compliance-based standards and performance-based regulation as opposed to specific requirements for technology on flights.
Several regulatory changes have been proposed to this effect. In 2014, President Barrack Obama signed the Small Plane Revitalization Act into law. Introduced to the Senate by Amy Kloubucha (D-Minn.) and L-Murkowski (R-Ala.), the act would streamline the regulatory process, cutting costs drastically and moving towards more performance-based standards. This would allow important technology, such as area-of-attack indicators, to make their way to certified smaller aircraft. Furthermore, a proposed reform of FAR Part 23 emphasizes standards-based certification in lieu of traditional checks. Regulations would not include notes on specific technology, with those details going in a separate document to which the standards would refer. In addition to the ASTM standards already in use, manufacturers would be able to offer their own standards and guidelines, allowing more flexibility and adaptation of regulation to match the current aviation climate.
The risks associated with performance-based assessment will remain. Such measures typically require systems knowledge as to why standards are set to their respective values, which could degrade over time due to increased turnover in aviation.
- The safety risk for most small, simple proven designs is typically low. There may be a need for different levels of requirements in the standards based on aircraft performance, complexity – or in this case, simplicity – or operational risk.
- Safety impact and risk should be evaluated, i.e. what are the outcomes of a failure?
- Improper test conduct/test data.
- Failure or mis-deployment of light aircraft recovery parachute systems.
- Adverse effects that accrue from failure to offset risk exposure from potential systems and equipment failure.
- Hazards and risks not detected by the new, relaxed standards.