Legislation Introduced to Revitalize General Aviation Industry

May 08--Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, on Tuesday introduced the Light Aircraft Revitalization Act, which sponsors say would streamline the certification process, lower costs and revitalize the general aviation industry.

Reforming certification processes would improve safety and increase innovation, Pompeo said in a statement.

The bill is cosponsored by Dan Lipinski, D-Illinois; Sam Graves, R-Missouri; Todd Rokita, R-Indiana; and Rick Nolan, D-Minnesota.

The average small plane in the U.S. is 40 years old, according to information from Pompeo's office.

In announcing his sponsorship of the legislation, Pompeo said in a statement that companies that bring new aircraft designs to market face regulatory barriers that hurt innovation. He claimed in the past decade, the U.S. had lost 10,000 active private pilots per year in part because of a lack of cost-effective, new small planes.

"General aviation safety can be improved by modernizing and revamping the regulations for this sector to clear the path for technology adoption and cost effective means to retrofit the existing fleet with new safety technology," according to the legislation being proposed.

Over the past 18 months, the Federal Aviation Administration's Part 23 Reorganization Aviation Rulemaking Committee, composed of aviation authorities and industry representatives, worked to create a regulatory environment that would revitalize the health and safety of new and existing light planes, according to information from Pompeo's office.

The legislation would require the implementation of the rulemaking committee's recommendations by the end of 2015.

"General aviation has never asked for a bailout, but we can cut red tape and at the same time improve safety, effectively revitalizing the industry by cutting the cost of new planes," Pompeo said in a statement. "The existing outdated certification process needlessly increases the cost of safety and technology upgrades by up to 10 times."

The bill calls for the FAA to reorganize certification requirements to streamline the approval of safety advancements.

It would require the creation of a "regulatory regime" for small airplanes, set broad, outcome-driven safety objectives to spur innovation, replace current, prescriptive requirements contained in FAA rules with performance-based ones.

It would use FAA-accepted standards to clarify how safety objectives may be met by specific designs and technologies.

The FAA administrator would lead the effort by working with aviation regulators to adopt a complementary regulatory approach for small planes.

For example, the leading cause of fatalities in general aviation is due to loss of control, in which the airspeed no longer produces the required lift, causing the plane to descend in an uncontrolled stall or spin without enough altitude to recover, information from Pompeo's office said.

Pilots are taught how to avoid these accidents, but they remain a problem. There is tremendous interest in technological interventions to improve the safety in these areas.

The FAA rulemaking committee developed recommendations that would allow technologies -- such as "envelope protection," "angle of attack indicators," and "spin-resistant features" -- that would improve safety be put into new and existing aircraft at a fraction of the cost.

But today, the cost of adding an angle-of-attack indicator into a noncertified experimental aircraft is $800. In a certified aircraft, the same piece of equipment is $5,000 because of the added certification paperwork and testing, according to information from Pompeo's office.

Reach Molly McMillin at 316-269-6708 or mmcmillin@wichitaeagle.com.

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