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Regulatory Roadblock Reduction

#FlySafe GA Safety Enhancement Topic

FAA Safety Briefing
Jun 11 · 6 min read

An important component of reducing general aviation (GA) accidents is leveraging the rapid growth and evolution of technology in the aviation industry. The General Aviation Joint Steering Committee (GAJSC) believes that the FAA must continue to find ways to help reduce the cost to install safety enhancing technology. Installation of this technology can offer substantial safety benefits, often with minimal risk. The GAJSC also feels that the FAA needs to identify the appropriate level of certification for installation of risk-mitigating avionics. Successful integration of this technology may help the GA fleet reap the potential benefit of reward with a balanced risk approach.

Graphic showing an AOA indicator and terrain avoidance.
Non-Required Safety Enhancing Equipment (NORSEE) can prevent loss of control.

Breaking Barriers

The high cost of certification has traditionally been a significant barrier for the aviation industry over the years. However, the FAA has made important strides toward removing those roadblocks.

The Sport Pilot/Light-Sport Aircraft (LSA) rules in 2004 marked an important milestone in bringing new aircraft choices to the table. The rule allowed American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) consensus standards as a means of certification for LSA. In addition, the safety and technological advances these new designs brought to both airframes and avionics helped drive several more recent developments.

Among these are the simplified design approval requirements for angle of attack (AOA) indicators. This life-saving technology is showing up on new aircraft and is available in a number of more affordable options for retrofit as well. (For more on AOA, see our April 2021 FlySafe topic). The success of this initiative also led the FAA to expand this approach to a broader range of equipment.

Photo of AOA indicator.
Photo of AOA indicator.
An angle of attack indicator.

Seeing NORSEE

Published in July 2016, the FAA’s Non-Required Safety Enhancing Equipment (NORSEE) policy includes avionics, electronic instruments, displays, and mechanical equipment for Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) parts 23, 27, and 29 aircraft. Examples of NORSEE equipment include traffic advisory systems; terrain awareness and warning systems; attitude indicators; fire extinguishing systems, and autopilot or stability augmentation systems. Equipment approved as NORSEE can enhance overall situational awareness and provide a range of information, such as:

  • Data beyond what is available aircraft primary system
  • Independent warning, cautionary, or advisory indications
  • Additional occupant safety protection.

See the list of NORSEE design approvals here.

Photo of 2 inch display.
Photo of 2 inch display.
The AV-20 provides angle of attack, G-meter, attitude, airspeed, and other information on a 2-inch display. Photo by Mike Collins, © AOPA (Used with permission.)

Part 23 Reform

On August 30, 2017, the final rule overhauling airworthiness standards for general aviation airplanes officially went into effect. The rule is a substantial overhaul of 14 CFR part 23, and with it, the FAA is enabling faster installation of innovative, safety-enhancing technologies into small airplanes, while reducing costs for the aviation industry. The rule applies to airplanes weighing 19,000 pounds or less and with 19 or fewer passenger seats.

Photo of electric airplane.
Photo of electric airplane.
The eFlyer (formerly Sun Flyer) is a project that is enabled by the revised part 23. Photo courtesy of Bye Aerospace

The rule’s performance-based standards approach recognizes that there is more than one way to deliver on safety. It offers a way for industry and the FAA to collaborate on new and existing technologies and to keep pace with evolving aviation designs and concepts. This regulatory change is also a leading example of how the FAA is transforming its Aircraft Certification Service into an agile organization that can support aviation industry innovation in the coming years.

Part 23 regulations will continue to be used as a means of certification, but the administrator has deemed the ASTM standards to provide “at least the same level of safety as the corresponding requirements in part 23, amendment 23–64.”

ASTM Consensus Standards F3264–17 identify the industry standards that, as determined by the FAA, demonstrate compliance to the requirements for Level 1, 2, 3, and 4 normal category airplanes. The FAA has accepted 35 published ASTM International consensus standards for certification of normal category part 23 airplanes. The new Means of Compliance (MOC) are, according to the FAA, “an acceptable means, but not the only means, of showing compliance to the applicable regulations in part 23 [and] provide at least the same level of safety as the corresponding requirements.”

What does the Change Mean for Me?

The big change in part 23 was the removal of the prescriptive requirements that had previously been at the heart of the rule. The FAA replaced them with desired, end-state criteria. This approach puts the emphasis on the airplane’s or system’s safety performance, not on how well it does in a series of pre-defined tests.

Photo of glass cockpit with terrain awareness and an angle of attack indicator.
Photo of glass cockpit with terrain awareness and an angle of attack indicator.

This in turn is helping aircraft manufacturers streamline their certification process and reduce costs. It is also helping aircraft part and avionics manufacturers bring more innovative, cost-effective, and safety-enhancing products to the market.

One exciting concept that is being advanced by the part 23 change is the EZ Fly program, a joint venture led by the FAA, NASA, academia, and industry. EZ Fly aims to leverage technology to create an intuitive user interface that reduces pilot workload. The idea is to use increased automation to move the pilot’s limited attention away from immediate mechanical tasks and toward overall management of the flight. The expected outcome is not a discrete system or set of components, but a MOC that would allow manufacturers to use these systems in future projects. Part 23 is an important enabler of not only this research and development, but also the technology’s eventual integration into finished products.

Part 23 also promotes regulatory harmonization among the FAA’s foreign partners, including the European Aviation Safety Agency, Transport Canada Civil Aviation, and Brazil’s National Civil Aviation Authority. Harmonization may help minimize certification costs for manufacturers and operators who want to certify their products for the global market.

Resources

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FAA Safety Briefing

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Official FAA safety policy voice for general aviation. Part of the national FAA Safety Team (FAASTeam).

Cleared for Takeoff

Voices, stories and news from the Federal Aviation Administration