Terrafugia’s Flying Car FAA Exemption
Someone, some very myopic publicist presumably, has a sadistic sense of humor. On June 20th, a day, maybe even hours before the FAA moved its most contentious, disruptive Final Rule (UAVs, Part 107) off of its plate, Terrafugia Transition announced that it cleared one significant regulatory hurdle on its way to filling the skies with cars that can FLY!!! That moved the FAA from the proverbial frying pan into the fire!
The auto/plane company received an FAA exemption Sunday to qualify its Transition as a “light sport aircraft.” An LSA is a classification of aircraft which established less rigorous certification standards, but also includes some tighter operational requirements. The timeline for such a project could (emphasize “could”) be quicker than others, but maybe not.
Others that have entered the LSA category have found that the promised freedom has not been unbounded. The “doubters” in the FAA have found reason to inspect the LSA’s offices to assure that the promised quality is adequate. Maybe, the true certification of the new Part 23 will be applied to Transition and/or LSAs.
By putting the concept of flying cars on a regulatory track, the FAA is also committing its regulatory resources to design pilot qualifications, take-off/landing rules, ATC integration procedures and a long list of other rules/policies/surveillance elements. That’s a lot of work and the headaches incurred with UASs, especially sUASs, are minimal compared to planes weighing 1,320 pounds and thus its speed/mass will generate force with the potential for considerable damage to life/property on the ground.
Having survived the 1st phase of the UAS regulatory design exercise (and more to come—micro and GT55#s), the FAA will now have to deal with a far more complex and risky policy creation challenge of planes in the NAS.