[Avionics Today 02-12-2016] The effort to improve and modernize regulation and certification for General Aviation (GA) aircraft is moving forward with major progress in North America and Europe, according to General Aviation Manufacturer's Association (GAMA) President and CEO Pete Bunce. During the organization's annual State of the Industry conference this week, Bunce said initiatives in these regions help reduce the current process of "engineers checking engineers" when it comes to approving the air worthiness of GA aircraft and approving them for operations in different areas of the world.
GAMA President and CEO Pete Bunce, left, and GAMA Chairman Aaron Hilkemann, right, during the association's annual State of the Industry press conference. Photo: GAMA.
Bunce's comments on GA regulatory modernization came during GAMA's release of the 2015 GA shipments and billings report, which features mixed results. Shipments of business jets increased slightly from 644 to 654 last year, while shipments and billings of all other categories of GA fixed-wing aircraft declined.
Outside of the shipments and billings report though, 2015 was a huge year for reducing the cost and complexity of getting GA aircraft certified and approved to operate in regions where GA flight activity is most prominent, such as North America, Brazil and Europe.
"There are four states of design, obviously represented by the FAA here [in the United Sates], Transport Canada north of the border, EASA for all of Europe — to include Pilatus, which certifies their aircraft with the Swiss authorities but works very closely with EASA in that process — and, of course, Embraer works very closely with [National Civil Aviation Agency of Brazil] ANAC in Brazil. So those four states of design all have bilaterals with one another, [and] the key for us is to leverage those bilaterals so we don’t have engineers, checking engineers, checking engineers. And we have been able to make great progress in that effort and that will continue as we go forward," said Bunce.
The biggest progress on this effort came in September 2015, when the FAA, EASA, and Transport Canada updated their respective technical implementation procedures with a new approach to accepting each other's design approvals for aircraft parts and Equipment under Technical Standard Order (TSO) authorizations. TSOs allow applicants to manufacture specified aircraft components and technologies. Through the new agreement signed by FAA, EASA and TC, importing aviation authorities in these regions can now accept the exporting authority's approval of a TSO without needing to issue its own approval.
According to a report released by GAMA along with its shipment and billings numbers, FAA and EASA have also simplified their administrative procedures for obtaining basic Supplemental Type Certificates (STCs), which are approved for aircraft modifications such as the installation of multi-function displays on an existing aircraft. GAMA's report states that the new process allows the validating authority to accept the original authority's STC without conducting a further technical review.
"We had a huge win last year by mutual acceptance of EASA and FAA of each other’s TSOs and ETSOs. What does that do? For industry, it saves millions of dollars. No duplication of effort between the authorities but it’s really the first step, it is the foundational piece of which we build upon, the next step is mutual recognition of each other’s supplemental type certificates on the simple side and then on the more complex side. Then we move up to actual certification of the aircraft. So if we have an aircraft certified up by Transport Canada, the FAA will accept that and not do the engineers checking engineers piece, this is big and we’ll keep pushing on that," said Bunce.
Modernizing the way EASA regulates the GA flying community in Europe is also a major initiative that GAMA is continuing to focus on in 2016. Europe is the last major aviation region internationally that still does not permit widespread commercial operations of single engine aircraft, according to GAMA. However, EASA recently issued a draft regulation that would allow single-engine turbine aircraft to fly at night and in Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC), both of which should help to further grow the overall GA community and industry in Europe.
“We can put safety data in front of regulators, and say ‘you cannot show us how flying a single-engine turbine in Europe is any more dangerous than a twin-engine turbine.’ We have broken through that and EASA has put forward a change that will allow single-engine commercial operations and now we have to bring some countries … that are still somewhat skeptical onboard, but this has been really a break out to be able to go and address this issue,” said Bunce.
In the United States, GAMA is also taking a large role on a topic that made major headlines in 2015: improving cyber security standards for aircraft systems and information. GAMA and Boeing are co-chairing a working group launched by the FAA last year to develop new airworthiness standards and guidance associated with network and Internet Protocol (IP) enablement of aircraft systems. The working group has been tasked to produce a new Aircraft Systems Information Security/Protection (ASISP) policy by August 2016.
“Currently, the regulator issues special conditions to manage aircraft system security. The ASISP will result in a common set of rules and standards that have proportional applicability to different types of aircraft that will take the place of the special conditions,” GAMA said.