As a follow up to an April 23, 2015 article, AIN asked the FAA Administrator to update the status of the Part 23 rewrite project:
“FAA Administrator Michael Huerta reiterated the agency’s commitment to rewriting Part 23 regulations, but still had no firm timeline for when the long-awaited proposal might be released. ‘I’ve asked my team to shorten time frames wherever possible so we can get this rule completed,’ he said. ‘It’s a big undertaking. The new rule will touch many different aspects of aviation, so we have to make sure it’s fair, can be measured and doesn’t have an adverse effect on safety or airworthiness.’” [emphasis added]
Delay of this NPRM is not good for US manufacturers, the FAA and its employees. To elucidate the underlying premises of that comment, it is important to explore the record of this important, if not historic, change in how General Aviation certification should occur in the future:
- Issuance of the Part 23 – Small Airplane Certification Process Study, July 2009
- This 87 page document was the work product of an industry and government study group
- It provided detailed recommendations as how to certificate GA aircraft for the future
- Charter of the “Part 23 Reorganization Aviation Rulemaking Committee”, August 2011
- 14 CFR Part 23 Reorganization Aviation Rulemaking Committee to the Federal Aviation Administration, June, 2013
- Composed of US and international governmental and private sector certification experts
- Work product of two years of hard work and innovative thinking
- The report represented the consensus of all of the participants
- A 335 page, incredibly researched and detailed report
- Appendix E 14 CFR Part 23 Recommended Revision Language – 36 pages of well-crafted § by § set of new rules; all of the work needed to implement the new concept
- Appendix F—Type Certificate/Production/Quality Assurance Manuals – a lengthy draft of manuals for the FAA’s and TC Applicant’s use in the process—policies, forms, diagrams, etc.
- July 23, 2014, “Domestic Aviation Manufacturing: Challenges and Opportunities” hearing before the Aviation Subcommittee of the Transportation and Infrastructure.
- It was noted that the Small Aircraft Revitalization Act which basically codified the general parameters of a detailed revision of a Part 23 ARC and added that the NPRM should be issued by December 2015.
- The Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety Gilligan said that the notice will not be issued until 2017.
- The general consensus of the witnesses, FAA, GAO and industry, was that the delay reflects the agency’s conservative safety culture.
- Then the August 23 AIN article in which the Administrator was reported as saying;
- “The FAA expects to release the Part 23 rewrite notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) later this year.”
If one assumes that the FAA staff is indeed just converting the Part 23 ARC draft language into language suitable for the CFR, it is confounding how it can take so much time. If on the other hand the staff rejects the underlying premises, the inordinate time required to rewrite 36 pages makes sense.
What should help focus the attention of the FAA’s rule-makers is the European threat. While they take their time, EASA has already used surrogate new Part 23 standards to certificate a C4 under EASA CS Part 23 regulations, which are “softer” and not as absolute. The TC, which will be issued, will include a “special condition” which requires that the C4 must be retested under the new EASA standards.
Another harbinger of EASA movement was the September, 2014 GAMA and ASTM symposium “Shaping the Future of General Aviation Products in Europe.” Filip Cornelis, head of the Air Safety Unit of the European Commission, which oversees EASA, opened the proceedings. Yves Morier, newly appointed head of General Aviation of EASA, spoke of the agency’s commitment to removing burdens from general aviation. Both speakers highlighted the initiative as a strong example of Europe’s new approach to better regulating general aviation and of the value of global cooperation.
It is about time that the FAA issues the NPRM for the new Part 23. It is a draft and if there are any fatal flaws, the comments will identify them. The drafters should keep in mind Voltaire’s aphorism, “the perfect is the enemy of the good.”[i] Or an even more important motivation might be: if EASA implements its Part 23 before the US, manufacturers of new GA aircraft may file their TC applications in Europe. That development would be bad for the FAA and its employees.
[i] Susan Ratcliffe (2011), Concise Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, Oxford University Press, p. 389, ISBN 978-0199567072 ; Voltaire, who quoted an Italian proverb in his Dictionnaire philosophique in 1770: “Le meglio è l’inimico del bene“.