European and US regulators plan to publish provisional specifications in 2014 for new CS-23/Part 23 regulations, which cover the design of light business and general aviation aircraft. Within three years, final specifications should be published, leading to new certification rules covering all aircraft up to 5,700kg (12,600lb).
"The reorganisation is designed to regulate the safety of GA aircraft based on requirements that are proportionate to the complexity and performance of the aircraft, rather than on existing arbitrary divisions based on weight and propulsion," says Greg Bowles, director of engineering and manufacturing at the US General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) - which is spearheading this change. "The lighter segments of GA have suffered in terms of new product innovation as a result of overly prescriptive and rigid rules."
GAMA says the average age of the global certificated GA fleet is about 40 years. It says owners are unwilling to buy new aircraft and burdensome certification regulations have led developers to ditch potentially life-saving technology. "GA has to be treated separately and not as a component of civil aviation," says GAMA president Pete Bunce. "The GA market is anaemic right now; helping to develop aircraft at a price point that makes sense to our customers will not only help to stimulate sales but also technological innovation."
GAMA formed an aviation rulemaking committee in 2011 to address these issues. It now has 150 members. "We are all energised," says Bunce.
"The new rules should slash certification costs and will be relevant for the next 20 years," Bowles adds.
It is hoped the recommendations will be adopted by international civil aviation authorities, leading to a globally harmonised standard. "If this process is successful, we may turn our attention to the rotorcraft regulations and maybe even transport aircraft," says Bunce.