FAA Will Rewrite Helicopter Rules

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The FAA said on Thursday it will revise the rules that govern helicopter certification, Parts 27 and 29, in a way similar to the effort now underway to revise Part 23 for airplanes. Part 27 addresses certification for rotorcraft weighing 7,000 pounds or less with nine passenger seats or less; anything larger falls under Part 29, the transport category. The FAA said it has been considering the change for some time, and in February 2013 asked for comments on its proposal to move forward. Forty-eight comments "indicated a substantial interest in favor of some form of revision or restructure of the rotorcraft design certification standards," the FAA said. "[Commenters said] the current regulatory scheme is outdated by technology and impedes the development of new rotorcraft models."

Helicopter Association International, in its comments posted online, said, "Rapid advances in technology over the past 20 years have challenged the current standards. At the same time, recent rulemaking activities on Part 23 regulations have been making very promising progress with proposals to simplify complex rules and reduce certification costs significantly, while enabling design improvements and the adoption of new safety technology. Because of these developments, we believe that we have a unique opportunity, right now, to conduct a full-scale review and overhaul of Parts 27 and 29. We should take advantage of this opportunity by immediately moving ahead with an effort to restructure rotorcraft airworthiness standards." The current rules, HAI added, "create unnecessary impediments to the adoption of new technology, unnecessarily increase the costs and delay development of new aircraft designs."

The FAA did not set a timeline but said the Rotorcraft Directorate "will begin establishing the appropriate forum(s) and involving interested parties." The agency also said it will reach out to other agencies such as Transport Canada Civil Aviation and the European Aviation Safety Agency to invite their participation in this effort, and will continue to issue future public announcements on upcoming developments. Some GA manufacturers have said they hope the new Part 23 revision will enable them to certify new models twice as fast, with half the costs.