Eleventh-Hour Cracks In MOSAIC?

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One of the big challenges of this job is the absolute necessity of becoming an instant expert on whatever subject is in front of one at the moment. Missteps are inevitable, especially when the subject is complex, but like everyone else involved in this specialized and arcane information flow we do our best.

Anyhow, I was just getting a handle on the ins and outs of MAX 9 door plugs when we were alerted to some kind of disturbance in the force on our way to a much more rational and accessible Light Sport category via the Modernization of Special Airworthiness Certification (MOSAIC) rulemaking process. The extended deadline for commenting on the 300-plus-page document is Jan. 22, and we suddenly heard from sources deeply involved in the nuts and bolts of that process that one of the major stakeholders in it was getting cold feet about some of its provisions. Bye-bye Boeing, but I’m sure we’ll get back to you.

It seems General Aviation Manufacturers Association representatives had let it be known that it would be looking for some changes to the NPRM in the comments it would be filing. GAMA has assured us its comments will support the overall direction of the NPRM but “there are areas of the proposal which go beyond what was expected and require additional clarification and justification from the FAA.” After some back and forth over the way we interpreted that, GAMA further emphasized that it supports Sport Pilots being able to fly four-place aircraft and that it supports “the increase in the size, performance and scope” of aircraft included in the new regime but—and it may be a fairly big “but”—we’ll all find out the details when they file the comments, likely just before the deadline.

Now, it’s just one set of comments out of the hundreds, perhaps thousands, that will be registered with the FAA. But the agency gives a fair bit of weight to organizations the size of GAMA because it assumes they represent the collective will of their hundreds of important and influential members.

Groups like GAMA do have to reflect the desires of their members, and airframers are going to have a different point of view than the members of EAA and AOPA, which yield the same level of clout, at least, as GAMA. These groups have each other on speed dial and are constantly in touch on a wide range of issues. They often get together to form a unified front on issues before the regulators and to politicians and it’s enormously effective. That requires transparency and trust. I’m sure there are some spirited exchanges that go on before that unified front is achieved but at the end it’s all smiles and handshakes. I think I assumed that was going on with MOSAIC, too, but maybe I was wrong.

The difference in this case is that GAMA doesn’t seem to have communicated its possibly divergent positions on MOSAIC until the last week or so. And it’s worth noting that we got wind of all this through “unnamed sources.” Although often scorned in anti-media tirades, unnamed sources serve a vital role in keeping the public informed about important issues. It takes a lot of courage to actually flag an issue and alert someone like me who can start asking questions and bring it into the light of day. By the way, we always verify the sources and we did so in this case. These are all highly respected and incredibly knowledgeable folks, and if they’re alarmed we should be paying attention.

Perhaps more telling is that when I called the other groups they seemed to be surprised by it. I’m sure there have been some of those “spirited exchanges” since then but with only a week to go before the deadline, it doesn’t seem likely that any substantive dialogue can take place, assuming the changes GAMA wants are themselves substantive.

EAA has now published the essence of its position in the form of a guide for individuals to comment on the NPRM, and it mainly expresses the need for a little more liberal approach on certain aircraft specs so the new rule captures the most popular and numerous existing light aircraft. More importantly, it opens the door to new players to create a new generation of modern, efficient, safe and desirable aircraft that can be used to feed the pilot pipeline.

GAMA’s comments may do something similar but I guess we’ll have to wait until Jan. 22 to find that out. That’s not to say that I think GAMA should toe some imaginary line or give ground on issues it believes will be detrimental to its members, but the rest of us might have some ideas on how to achieve the core goals of MOSAIC while respecting those concerns. It would have been nice to have had the chance.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

17 COMMENTS

  1. Well-written heads-up on the bureaucratic sausage-making, Russ. My C172A is old enough to collect social security, so this story affects me ‘way more than Woeing’s QC issue. Given the natural tug-o-war between the two primary stakeholders in MOSAIC, manufacturers and their pilot/customers, one would hope that the numerical weight of the latter would hold sway. But this is our federal gummint; we all know that it runs on money, and which side has the most to play with.

    Given the impending drop in the signal/noise ratio in the national news, please stay on top if this issue for us.

  2. More evidence of the validity of the Limbaugh Theorem: everything the government touches, turns to crap. Crony lobbies are part of The Swamp. Some years ago I met one of the executives of a major aviation alphabet. I assumed she was an experienced pilot. Nope. Graduated in psychology from one of our party colleges in NC, went to The Swamp and started climbing the rungs in any lobby with good opportunities.

  3. I had to do a deep dive into my mental archives to remember what peeped me off SO much a decade or so ago that I wrote a nastygram email to GAMA. I guess I did a good enough job such that they had one of their people call me from Brussels. It was over their opposition to the Appendix inserted into the Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) FAR Part 23 Update Final Report to the FAA recommending establishment of a new category of airworthiness named “Primary.” (Different than the one used currently). In a nutshell, had they done that, legacy certificated entry level GA airplanes could have been treated like an E-AB and only require a condition inspection. The final outcome of that five year effort resulted in only something FAR less called NORSEE … big deal 🙁 . GAMA helped water down the report that they themselves participated in. 🙁
    So, when I read that GAMA was — again — resisting the MOSAIC effort, I again was mad … and voiced my disdain in your first article.
    It’s time for GAMA to decide if they’re going to SO heavily represent their constituents to the detriment of the GREATER good for General Aviation. They SEEMED to take a detour after the derisive comments made in your first article but — as you said — we shall see what they do, won’t we. They had better support MOSAIC!
    Elsewhere, you’ve got an article about the shortage of pilots. MOSAIC could be one facet to help solve that. But if it’s watered down like the FAR Par 23 Rewrite effort was … we’re all screwed. WAKE UP GAMA!
    Finally, Avweb’s fine reporting is doing a GREAT service for aviation. On this issue alone, it becomes obvious that voices from deep in the trenches can have an impact because there’s an aviation based forum to rapidly learn about it, share it and act upon it. That’s what true journalists are SUPPOSED to do; sad that it isn’t done in the wider media these days. Kudos and thanks to you all at Avweb,

    Now then … a “little birdie” is landing on your shoulder, Russ. I heard that Woeing is gonna use some of that magic tape we see advertised on TV as the backup failsafe method to ensure that their not needed escape doors don’t fly open in flight OR leak pressurization.
    🙂

  4. GAMA really isn’t doing GA a favor by keeping quiet about what it is they don’t like about MOSAIC. Especially with it being a last-minute “oh, by the way” that apparently has taken the rest of the alphabet groups by surprise. That they think some parts should be modified isn’t the problem, but rather that they seem to be so tight-lipped about it. It makes me wonder what they’re trying to hide–probably some financial motivation.

    • I agree. Seems like an attempt to flex their perceived clout to make MOSAIC exactly what they want and other commenters to appear less valid.

  5. I have talking to all my friends to leave one comment
    In general I think MOSAIC is a good move forward but S1 stall speed clean, flaps up is too low ..Mosaic calls for 54 knots but almost no Cherokees meet that requirement. the Warrior is the only member of that tribe I have found so far that will meet that limit.

    I suggest my friends leave a comment ” I agree with the MOSAIC proposals but the 54 knot Specification for S1 is too low and eliminates most of the easy to fly simple Cherokees. I suggest S1 be changed to 61 Knots”

  6. Follow the MONEY! They exist to sell new airplanes. Period. If the existing airplanes are suddenly available as LSA’s etc people will not buy new. Any more questions?

  7. A possible reason for GAMA’s hesitance? Read the MOSAIC proposal and it is all about spurring new airplane design and production with the increased ability to add safety features that cannot currently be incorporated into LSAs primarily because of the severe weight limits on Light Sport. I can see where GAMA, which represents aircraft manufacturers, is all about a change that would increase new aircraft design and production.

    EAA’s comments and comments guide, however, emphasizes proposed changes that would permit Sport Pilots to fly a greater variety of existing legacy aircraft. This might in turn negatively affect new LSA production, something that might cool GAMA’s support for the proposal.

    The FAA proposal discusses what it calls a “safety continuum” the begins with Experimental/Amateur Built aircraft (least safe) through MOSAIC-refined Light Sport aircraft (safer than E/AB but less safe than standard category aircraft), to Standard category aircraft (safer than E/AB and LSA). I’ve not seen it mentioned in the aviation press, but this is an interesting passage in the FAA’s MOSAIC NPRM:

    “Since the 2004 rule, light-sport category aircraft have shown a lower accident rate than experimental amateur-built airplanes. The FAA considers that the successful safety record of light-sport category aircraft validates certification requirements established in the 2004 final rule and provides support for expanding the scope of certification for light- sport category aircraft and operations. As a result, the FAA identified this proposed rule as an opportunity to expand the 2004 final rule to include a wider variety of aircraft, increase performance, and increase operating privileges to extend these safety benefits to more aircraft. The FAA intends for these expansions to increase safety by encouraging aircraft owners, who may be deciding between an experimental aircraft or a light-sport category aircraft, to choose aircraft higher on the safety continuum and, therefore, meet higher aircraft certification requirements.” (source: NPRM, p. 5).

    That last sentence from the Federal Register tells us FAA is trying to convince someone considering an Experimental/Amateur Built aircraft to choose an historically safer LSA instead, and is using the MOSAIC proposal to close the performance gap between current LSAs and experimental airplanes to make that choice more attractive.

    • Correct. And the proposed rule also appears duplicative to what the Primary Category part 23 rule rewrite was meant to address. Additionally, the LSA aspect of MOSAIC is only the tip of the iceberg on what this rule proposes. If implemented, it will not only effect LSA rules and definitions but also parts 21, 43, 65, 91, and 119 as well as adding a new part 22 rule. Part 22 will supposedly set the foundation for future non-type certificated aircraft such as UAS and eVTOL. There is a lot more going on here than what the Modernization of Special Airworthiness Certification title of it would lead us to believe.

  8. Down here in Australia, our CASA (= FAA) state they are closely watching the progress of MOSAIC, and may adopt most of the outcomes. I wonder if the GAMA members have considered that any help to get people into the budget end of aviation should eventually be to GAMA’s benefit, as many of the those budget pilots will eventually want something bigger and faster.

  9. A last minute posting to the NPRM means there’s little time for others to post relevant objections and clarifications. I think the lawyers at GAMA must have developed this strategy.

  10. Is anyone really surprised that GAMA is going to fight MOSAIC? They are the enemy and this is the fight of our aviation lives. EAA and AOPA need to go to the mat on this, and we all need to open up our checkbooks to help. That is exactly what GAMA is going to do. We can probably expect some fight from the Airline Pilots Association also. Remember their last minute resistance to BasicMed?

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