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FAA opens up discussion on future light aircraft

The US Federal Aviation Administration is to consult publicly on its review of the current assumptions that underlie the certification processes for light aircraft, with the first public meeting to be held in Wichita on 23 February.

Light aircraft design and performance has changed so dramatically in the past 20 years, argues the FAA, that a full review of certification assumptions is appropriate.

The agency has completed a full study of the issues. Its conclusions and recommendations are intended to form the basis for the public consultation.

"Part 23 currently differentiates airplane requirements based on engine type and airplane weight, which does not address the operational capabilities of today's high-performance small airplane," says the FAA in its summary of the issues.

"Historically, Part 25 airplanes had technologies that for cost and weight reasons were not practical for Part 23 airplanes. Smaller Part 23 airplanes were typically simple and slow while bigger airplanes were more complex and faster," it adds.

"Consequently, the existing approach to standards based on weight and engine type was effective. While the existing approach has produced safe airplanes for decades, technological advances have changed the original assumptions of the part 23 divisions," the FAA says.

The agency points out that "unfortunately, the slow, simple Part 23 airplanes have suffered as the standards have shifted towards more complex airplanes."

The FAA report makes two main recommendations: that it should reorganise Part 23 based on aircraft performance and complexity and abandon the existing weight and propulsion divisions, and that it should "rewrite certification requirements for Part 23 airplanes as a top-level regulation with more detailed implementation methods defined by reference to industry and government standards".

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