House to take up small-airplane bill after recent Senate passage

10/07/2013 5:42 PM

08/08/2014 10:19 AM

The Small Airplane Revitalization Act of 2013, which aims to streamline the certification process for small airplanes, last week unanimously passed the Senate, which made some minor changes and sent it back to the House of Representatives, where it’s expected to pass.

The bill was written and introduced by Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita.

The goal is to make airplane certification more efficient and effective while protecting the Federal Aviation Administration’s oversight role, Pompeo has said.

“The congressman is thrilled that the Senate has chosen to pass the SARA bill,” said J.P. Freire, Pompeo’s spokesman. “We think it’s just what the aviation manufacturing sector needs to be more competitive.”

The requirements will improve the safety of small airplanes and foster their development, Pompeo has said.

“A healthy small-aircraft industry is integral to economic growth and to maintaining an effective transportation infrastructure for communities and countries around the world,” the bill said.

General aviation cultivates a workforce of engineers, manufacturing and maintenance professionals and pilots and contributes good-paying jobs in manufacturing and technology, it said.

The average small airplane is 40 years old. Bringing new designs to market face regulatory barriers and result in a lack of innovation and investment in design, the bill notes. Modernizing and revamping regulations to improve safety will clear the path to adopt technology and retrofit the existing fleet with cost-effective safety technologies, it said.

The act directs the Federal Aviation Administration to reorganize certification requirements to streamline the approval of safety advancements for small airplanes.

It requires the FAA administrator to issue a rule to meet certain consensus-based standards and objectives set out by an FAA aviation rule-making committee. The committee was formed in August 2011 to identify ways to streamline the certification process.

It included 55 representatives from the FAA, the European Safety Agency, Brazil’s Agencia Nacional de Aviacao Civil, the Civil Aviation Administration of China, Transport Canada Civil Aviation, New Zealand’s Civil Aviation Authority and airplane manufacturers around the world, the FAA said.

Its recommendations cover areas of design, production, maintenance and safety.

If the bill is approved, the FAA administrator must issue a final rule no later than Dec. 15, 2015.

First, the bill says it would create another regulatory regimen that focuses on small airplane safety and reduces regulatory cost burdens for the FAA and the aviation industry. The legislation says the intent is to set broad, outcome-driven objectives to spur small-airplane innovation and technology adoption.

And it would replace the current prescriptive requirements in FAA rules with performance-based regulations. Performance-based regulations would focus on the complexity and performance of an aircraft instead of the current regulations based on weight and type of propulsion.

Under many of the existing requirements, small, relatively simple airplanes must meet the same regulatory requirements as more complex aircraft.

The FAA administrator will work with leading aviation regulators to help them adopt a complementary regulatory approach for small planes, the bill said.

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