The New Part 23
In Effect, But Will It Work?
The new, improved, revised Part 23 became effective on August 30, 2017. The FAA press release announcing these “forward-looking, flexible rules that encourage innovation was issued on September 5, 2017. This gap has been typical of this slow process. A timetable of all of the milestones and delays suggest that there has been resistance to this innovative regime.
Here is a brief review of this rule’s history:
- It has been gestating almost ten years.
- It was the subject of two statutes (FAMRA and SARA) exhorting the FAA to expedite the issuance of these rules.
- It represents the work of one of the most impressive, international and inclusive ARCs.
- It reverses a regulatory postulate established by Secretary Pena in 1995 labeled “One Level of Safety” and announced a “safety continuum philosophy” in which “…one level of safety may not be appropriate for all aviation. The FAA accepts higher levels of risk, with correspondingly fewer requirements for the demonstration of compliance, when aircraft are used for personal transportation.”
- As mentioned by some of the private sector commenters in the Video, now that the rules have been released, there may be some question whether the field staff charged with implementing the new “performance-based” standard will be able to revise their regulatory perspective—
- from a process of dialectical submission of data by the TC proponent and FAA review
- to a more collaborative mechanism in which the TC applicant and the regulators assess the safety risks of the design and then work toward a testing program with the assistance of ATSM.
- The lengthy history of this NPRM is unusual in that the work product of the Certification Process Study/ Part 23 Regulatory Review/ Part 23 ARC efforts was thorough, extremely well-written and by all accounts ready for publication. In spite of that extensive preparation of what was considered to be a final product, the staff took over two years to issue an NPRM. To add to the curious delay, Congress passed FAMRA and SARA urging that the rule be promulgated, thus
- adding some credibility to the inference (noted in the video) that the staff is resisting the new concept.
- While the general theme is to become less prescriptive, the NPRM includes two new specific criteria. The Part 23 applicant must demonstrate the aircraft’s design as it relates to Loss of Control and Super-cooled Large Drop Icing.
The final rule was published in December 16, 2016. The intervening months have been used to train the FAA staff and industry on the new “performance based” approach. GAMA held its own training sessions about the rule revision starting at the Boeing facility, Seattle, WA and at a number of other locations.
Also in the interim, Dorenda Baker, Director of the Aircraft Certification Office, has initiated an Aircraft Certification Service Transformation. It will realign her team of more than 1,300 engineers, scientists, inspectors, test pilots and other experts responsible for the design and production approval, airworthiness certification, and continued airworthiness programs of all U.S. civil aviation products. The new paradigm will be a “functionally-aligned organizational structure (PDF) to execute the certification strategy.”
Change is difficult. Dealing with new concepts and standards is a challenge. The inclusion with industry standard-setting organizations will simplify the derivation of these airworthiness criteria BUT the existing cadre of AIR personnel may take time to work with these collaborative exercises. The reorganization likely placed the most astute certification staff in the critical points on the way to a new Part 23 TC.
It will be very interesting to see how (or whether) this transformation progresses. Hopefully the production lines in Wichita, KS, Vero Beach, FL, Duluth, MN, Greensboro, NC, Kerrville, TX, Albuquerque, NM and the plants of new GA aircraft companies will see the end product of all of this regulatory and legislative actions.