David Learmount/LONDON

EXISTING RULES governing the certification of derivative aircraft are to be scrapped if the US Federal Aviation Administration and the European Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) approve new proposals presented by an international task force of manufacturers and aviation authorities.

The controversial "grandfather-rights" certification policy, where manufacturers can escape having to re-certificate aircraft to the latest standards if they are derivatives of existing designs, has been highlighted recently in a fierce clash between Boeing and Airbus over approval of new generation 737s.

"A notice of proposed rule making and an advisory circular have been agreed to by industry, and now it's in the FAA's hands," says Boeing chief engineer, certification and requirements, Ed Kupcis. "The JAA will eventually agree to it, but has already committed to it," he says.

The proposal calls for every element in a new aircraft to be examined and compared with existing parts, which are certificated. Overlaps and new areas will be identified, and it will be up to the manufacturer to justify to the FAA and JAA why some new elements would not require re-certification.

According to Kupcis, the draft rules force manufacturers of derivative aircraft to comply with the most recent requirements, with the exception of those, which are "not practical". Any exceptions would only be permissible based on past service experience.

Wolfgang Vidszuhn, vice-president of product integrity at Airbus Industrie, says that the JAA has already agreed " use the new proposals to certificate new-generation 737s". The FAA will certificate under existing rules, he says.

"It will be interesting to see which requirements Boeing will get exemption for, particularly on safety issues," says Vidszuhn.

Airbus, which says that it is "happy at the derivative policy change", has been fighting a rearguard action against Boeing's use of grandfather rights on the new 737 to avoid falling foul of tighter safety standards demanded of the A320. It says that several European sales have already been lost to Seattle because of the certification procedures (Flight International, 5-12 July).

JAA certification director Koos van der Spek refuses to confirm or deny Kupcis' claim that the rule change is about to be approved, although he later went on to say that the final stage before completion is referral of recommendations to the JAA's constituent national authorities.

The JAA, having published its own Notice of Proposed Amendment on the issue and received the industry's comments, says: "Our objectives are to adopt the same rule and advisory material as the FAA."

The proposals before the FAA and JAA are the outcome of discussions by the International Certification Procedure Task Force - a grouping of US and European aviation authorities and industry.

Source: Flight International