NTSB, Manufacturers Weigh In On Part 23 Changes


The FAA’s comment period is now closed for its proposed changes to Part 23 aircraft certification, and 61 comments have been logged online. The GA industry has been lobbying for the changes for years, in hopes that it will become easier and cheaper to certify new airplanes and bring new technologies to market. But the process isn’t complete until everyone has had their say. The comments come from a range of aircraft owners and pilots, as well as industry groups and aircraft manufacturers. A joint letter from GAMA, EAA, AOPA and the Aircraft Electronics Association implored the FAA to act swiftly to implement the proposal “in as short a timeframe as possible.” The NTSB also weighed in, noting: “We generally support these proposed changes but believe that the FAA should clearly define the certification levels and how aircraft risk and performance will be assessed during the certification process.”

The NTSB raised concerns about “exactly how the revisions will reduce loss of control accidents.” The safety board also questioned the whole framework of consensus standards. “Although the consensus standards process provides a collaborative framework for standards development, we are concerned that design standards important for safety considerations may be overlooked,” the board said. The NTSB cited a 2009 investigation that found “the ‘prescriptive design standards’ in the existing Part 23 would likely have not allowed the certification of this aircraft design [a Zodiac LSA], but the applicable ASTM consensus standards did not provide adequate protection from catastrophic aerodynamic flutter.” The safety board also raised questions about icing certification and airplane crashworthiness under the proposed new system. “In general,” the board concludes, “we concur with some aspects of this NPRM and feel that other aspects need further consideration, clarification, and refinement. … We urge the FAA to maintain the necessary level of safety as it continues to develop new pathways to airplane certification.”

Other commenters, including Kestrel Aviation and Air Tractor Inc., asked the FAA to extend the comment period. Kestrel’s letter says the 60-day public review and comment period provided for the NPRM “is not commensurate with the scope of changes proposed.” Air Tractor, a manufacturer of agricultural aircraft, also asked for more time, noting that “This whole rule change movement was originally about trying to reduce the time and expense associated with airplane certification. … But, for the most part, we believe that the proposed rules will increase the time and costs associated with airplane certification.” The FAA denied those requests for more time. All comments are available for review in the public docket.