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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.

Potential hazard

  1. 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.
  2. Safety impact and risk should be evaluated, i.e. what are the outcomes of a failure?
  3. Improper test conduct/test data.
  4. Failure or mis-deployment of light aircraft recovery parachute systems.
  5. Adverse effects that accrue from failure to offset risk exposure from potential systems and equipment failure.
  6. Hazards and risks not detected by the new, relaxed standards.

Corroborating sources and comments

Friday, November 15, 2013

Report from 14 CFR Part 23 Reorganization Aviation Rulemaking Committee: Recommendations for increasing the safety and small general aviation airplanes certificated to 14 CFR part 123, June 5, 2013 (Outline of a proposed FAR Part 23 reform which could impact certification for the entire industry. The aviation industry has pushed for reform for decades. The new proposal pushes for standards-based certification [i.e. performance-based], rather than micromanaging the technology each plane can use. Manufacturers could offer their own standards in addition to the ASTM provided. The new standards cover everything under 19,000 lbs. The goal of the regulation is to cover Supplemental and Amended Type Certificates, allowing faster certification as new kinds of air vehicles emerge.) (Traditional regulation for Light Sport Aircraft, started in 2004, required each plane to have “a single, reciprocating engine, if powered”. While keeping turbine engines away, the regulation also put the kibosh on electric power for the new aircraft, stalling innovation on that front. The FAA refuses to change despite industry pressures, citing the change as beyond their scope. (Summary for H.R. 1848, the Small Airplane Revitalization Act, passed in 2014. The bill aims to create broad, outcome-based regulations for aircraft and move to a performance-based regulatory system, as discussed.) (More details on the act in question.)

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