Small-Airplanes Rule Overhaul ‘A Very Good Thing,’ Industry Says
March 9, 2016
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  • Aviation officials locally and nationally said Wednesday that a proposed overhaul of the airworthiness standards for small general aviation airplanes will make bringing new aircraft and technology to market easier and less costly.

    The Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday published a proposal to overhaul its Part 23 rules that govern the design and alteration of piston-engine airplanes – such as Textron Aviation’s Cessna 172 and Beechcraft Bonanza – turboprop airplanes and some light business jets.

    The proposed rule change, which is more than 280 pages, affects general aviation aircraft manufacturers, companies that modify small GA aircraft, and individual owners of those airplanes.

    “It’s a very good thing,” said Lynn Nichols, owner of Yingling Aviation at Wichita Eisenhower National Airport. “The initiative is kind of removing some of the primitive rules that are not really applicable to new aircraft certification today.”

    And, Nichols said, it promotes “new technology at greater safety and a lower cost to the industry.”

    Walter Desrosier, vice president for engineering and maintenance for the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, said the rule will foster innovation in the general aviation industry with “regulatory standards that are forward-looking.”

    “It’s a huge rule, but it doesn’t impose any new burden or requirement on anybody,” Desrosier said.

    The existing Part 23 rule is “extremely stifling and limiting” for manufacturers, especially in instances when they want to introduce a new design, part or system, he said. It will make developing airplanes powered by electric or hybrid engines more efficient and less costly, for example.

    “This proposal would streamline how we approve new technologies for small piston-powered airplanes all the way to complex, high-performance executive jets,” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said in a statement.

    One pilots group, however, doesn’t think the overhaul goes far enough. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association said in a statement Wednesday that changes are needed to make it easier and more affordable for owners of older airplanes to equip their aircraft with modern safety equipment.

    “One size does not fit all when it comes to aircraft equipment,” AOPA President Mark Baker said in a statement. “With the GA fleet aging and just over a thousand new piston-powered GA aircraft being delivered each year, we must make it easier to upgrade legacy aircraft with a wide range of innovative safety technology.”

    The proposed overhaul will be published in the Federal Register on Monday, followed by a two-month public comment period.

    Jerry Siebenmark: 316-268-6576, @jsiebenmark