The FAA December 16 released its long-awaited final rule making significant revisions to small aircraft certification standards. The new FAR Part 23 rule addresses how airplanes weighing up to 19,000 pounds can be certified and implements performance-based airworthiness requirements instead of the prescriptive design requirements it replaces. It apparently offers little regulatory relief to owners or operators of existing or aging aircraft. Given the scope of the rule changes, the FAA is delaying its implementation eight months, to August 30, 2017.
According to General Aviation Manufacturers Association President and CEO Pete Bunce, the new rule is “nothing less than a total rethinking of how our industry can bring new models of pistons, diesels, turboprops, light jets, and new electric and hybrid propulsion airplanes to market, as well as facilitating safety-enhancing modifications and upgrades to the existing fleet.”
One feature of the new rule is a break with traditional ways of organizing FARs. It adopts a suggestion from the European Aviation Safety Agency, EASA, an FAA counterpart, on how to distinguish the new regulations from the old. Accordingly, the existing Part 23 structure (e.g., section numbering, which starts at 23.1) will be left intact. The new rule starts its numbering at 23.2000.
Owners and operators of existing airplanes, and manufacturers of parts and other equipment for them, hoping for some fundamental changes to the ways existing Part 23 airplanes are modified, maintained and operated will be disappointed in the new rule, however. Additionally, requests for the FAA to adopt an aviation rulemaking committee’s recommendation to establish a “Primary Non-Commercial Category” (PNC) to address the needs of aging airplanes were not implemented.
At least the agency is up-front about it: “With respect to the existing fleet, the FAA does not expect the revisions to Part 23 to provide immediate benefits to older airplanes,” the final rule states. Many of the objectives sought in the PNC request involve necessary changes to FAR Parts 21 and 43, as well as Part 91. “[T]he FAA is not making additional changes to Parts 21 or 43 because they are outside the scope of this rulemaking,” the new rule states.
The FAA released its new Part 23 rule right before this magazine’s deadline. We’ll report additional details on the new Part 23 and how it may affect flight safety and risk management as they become available.
A rash of fatal accidents involving U.S. general aviation airplanes at the end of 2016 closed out a year in which early, unofficial statistics don’t appear to show substantial safety improvements when compared to the year before. Final data for 2016 won’t be available for several months, but late December’s fatal crashes aren’t likely to improve the annual numbers.
On December 27, an Epic LT single-engine turboprop crashed at the Spruce Creek, Fla., residential airpark, killing both aboard. The airplane had departed Tennessee’s Millington Regional Airport and reportedly crashed while attempting to land in poor visibility.
As this issue was being finalized, all six aboard a Cessna 525C Citation CJ4 remained missing after the business jet disappeared shortly after taking off from the Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, Ohio, on December 29. The airplane disappeared over Lake Erie; items verified to have been aboard the airplane when it took off later washed ashore.
On December 31, a Piper PA-28 crashed near Mt. Vernon, Ill., killing all four aboard. Early reports said the piston single was flying from Iowa to Nashville, Tenn., when it crashed at about 1745 local time.
Also on December 31, three aboard two airplanes died when they collided over McKinney, Texas. Both the Piper Arrow and the Luscombe involved in the collision crashed out of control.
Five Winter Flying Tips From NBAA
The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) in December published a list of five tips operators may wish to implement in trying to improve the safety of winter flying to and from smaller airports.
1. Dig Deeply into TALPA
“Review the FAA’s Takeoff and Landing Performance Assessment (TALPA) initiative. Airports began using a new Runway Assessment and Condition Reporting system in October 2016. Using their aircraft performance data, pilots should study the runway condition assessment matrix (RCAM), based on contaminant type and depth.”
2. Know When to Call the Airport
“If an airport has a small staff, don’t call about the pavement’s condition; the newly formatted Field Conditions (FICON) NOTAM, is the official source for such information. However, it is appropriate to call the FBO to confirm ramp or hangar space availability, and any existing snow-related hazards. Advise the FBO well in advance of your departure so the support staff can schedule deicing and aid in the airport’s snow removal efforts.”
3. Confirm Avionics Compatibility with the Airport’s Approaches
According to the association, “after the FAA installed localizer-performance instrument approaches at Sun Valley, ID, several business jet operators discovered that their avionics were not programmed for the GPS-WAAS-based system.”
4. Handle a Cold-Soaked Airplane Carefully
“Remove freezable fluids from the aircraft’s cabin and water system upon arrival. Upon departure, start the APU, turn on the heat and let the airplane warm up.”
5. Go/No-Go Decisions Should Be Made by the Pilot
Winter operations to and from snow-country airports may pose unique challenges. Among NBAA’s recommendations are obtaining in-flight updates to the destination airport’s field condition (FICON) Notams. Just because it’s colder, don’t ignore high-altitude, short-runway performance limitations.