March 14, 2016

The FAA is proposing to revamp the certification process for small aircraft, moving away from prescriptive design requirements and instead instituting a new system of performance-based airworthiness standards.

The notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), which was published on March 14, replaces the current weight and propulsion classifications of small airplane regulations with both performance- and risk-based standards for aircraft weighing less than 19,000 pounds and seating 19 or fewer passengers.

The goal of the NPRM is to reduce certification costs while increasing safety. If adopted, the rule would set new standards aimed at spurring the adoption of innovative and technology-oriented solutions to safety challenges.

“This is a tremendous step forward that puts our industry on the path toward higher safety standards at significantly lower costs,” said NBAA Chief Operating Officer Steve Brown. “As a result of this rule, we’ll see expedited research and development, along with quicker regulatory approval and rapid deployment of life-saving safety enhancements.”

Proposed revisions to FAR Part 23 certification standards include more flexibility in regulations that govern crash testing. In the past, according to the NPRM, the FAA “has focused on individual components rather than safety as a whole.” Added flexibility, the NPRM stated, would “allow the aviation industry to develop and implement novel solutions.”

The rule also aims to improve general aviation safety by creating additional certification standards to reduce accidents caused by loss of control, and to enhance icing certification standards so they include super-cooled large drops, mixed phase and ice crystals.

The proposed Part 23 revamp would include the use of “consensus standards.” These would be developed through cooperation between the government and industry stakeholders in such a way that all viewpoints would be taken into consideration. According to the NPRM, the consensus standards would be one way for an airplane type to achieve certification. Another way would be by meeting performance-based standards. The third way would be via the prescriptive standards currently in use.

View the entire NPRM.

The public comment period runs through May. Comments may be submitted through the Federal eRulemaking Portal or via regular mail.