July 10, 2013
Credit: Architect of the Capitol
A key U.S. House panel has placed its imprimatur on legislation designed to put congressional weight behind an effort to spur general aviation business and activity.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee unanimously approved the proposed Small Airplane Revitalization Act on July 10.
“This bill … is really about good government,” Aviation subcommittee Chairman Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.) said at a hearing on the bill (H.R. 1848). “H.R. 1848 will make necessary, common-sense reforms to the existing prescriptive regulatory regime, which will improve the safety of general aviation at half the cost and help revitalize this critical industry.”
The committee’s approval was expected, and a companion bill in the Senate (S. 1072) already has 11% of the upper chamber’s support before even being voted on by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. The legislative actions follow and reinforce efforts already under way at the FAA and is strongly supported by international regulators and industry, including the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA).
If enacted, the bill essentially calls for rewriting FAR Part 23 before 2016 with the intention of halving certification costs while more than doubling safety via recommendations of the international Part 23 Reorganization Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC). The ARC last month reported its recommendations to the FAA.
Greg Bowles, director of engineering and manufacturing for GAMA and co-chair of the ARC, thinks the FAA might be “uncomfortable” with the legislators’ Dec. 31, 2015, deadline, being a year earlier than the agency’s plans. But the legislation underscores the importance of getting the rule out, even when FAA is grappling with budget constraints.
Proponents of the efforts, as explained in the House Transportation’s bill language, have said current GA airplane certification regulations are outdated, overly prescriptive and prohibit the application and use of efficient and cost-effective safety solutions. According to them, the GA industry – of which small aircraft comprise nearly 90% of FAA-certified airplanes – counts nearly 600,000 pilots, helps employ roughly 1.3 million people and contributes around $150 billion in value each year to the U.S. economy. But the average small aircraft is now 40 years old, and over the past decade the sector has lost about 10,000 active private pilots annually – all of which boosters hope can be mitigated or reversed through cutting regulations, spurring innovation and new interest.
Among other provisions, the legislation approved by the House panel would also direct the FAA to “lead the effort” to improve GA safety by working with “leading” aviation regulators to help them adopt a “complementary regulatory approach for small aircraft.”
“The new guidelines carry the potential to drastically improve the fortunes of an industry that continues to struggle in this difficult and challenging economic climate,” NBAA CEO Ed Bolen said.