NBAA's Bolen: Continued Certification Improvements 'Critical' to Business Aviation

July 23, 2014
The statement emphasized that certifications and approvals are fundamental to all aviation segments, and that further improvements are needed to support business aviation’s environmental, economic and safety concerns.

Washington, DC, July 23, 2014 – National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) President and CEO Ed Bolen today submitted a statement to a House Aviation Subcommittee hearing on U.S. aviation manufacturing challenges. The written statement emphasized that certifications and approvals are fundamental to all aviation segments, and that further improvements are needed to support business aviation’s environmental, economic and safety concerns.

“Certification is critical to business aviation in terms of time, cost, efficiency and safety,” Bolen said. “Improvements must continue to be made to the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA’s) certification processes, including operator authorizations, operator certifications, and aircraft and parts certifications.”

Bolen welcomed the progress being made by the FAA in streamlining reviews for certain of these procedures, emphasizing that “long timelines have a direct impact on safety, the environment and overall cost of operations.”

Safety is of utmost concern, Bolen noted, because delays in proper flight authorizations mean that business aviation operators must fly at below optimum altitudes for safety and efficiency. He urged lawmakers to consider two key areas for further improvements to FAA authorization processes, including giving more priority to Part 91 operators – based on the importance of business aviation operations to the U.S. economy and the impact these companies have on commerce domestically and internationally – and creating one or more FAA and Industry process enhancement teams to review and streamline the authorization processes applicable to these authorizations.

“We had success with the Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum (RVSM) Process Enhancement Team and believe we can again be successful with each of these teams,” the statement read.

“Operator authorizations remain one of the biggest issues for NBAA Members,” Bolen wrote. “NBAA Members have for years expressed concerns with the timelines and requirements to obtain a letter of authorization (LOA) for RVSM airspace operations.”

As an example, Bolen noted that a common change, such as a revision to an aircraft registration number “akin to changing the license plate on your car,” required significant time for an FAA inspector to “review all of the information as though it was a brand new operator, often taking in excess of 60 days to process.”

New FAA operator authorization guidance published in January should enable inspectors to review only the elements that are requested for change. Once inspectors become familiar with the new procedures, “we expect the overall timelines from an initial request being made to the issuance of a new or amended RVSM LOA will continue to decrease,” Bolen added.

Bolen also mentioned the FAA’s focus on providing LOAs to U.S. operators needing automatic dependent surveillance – broadcast (ADS-B) technology authorizations for ADS-B operations in international regions where this is a requirement of civil aviation authorities.

“More than 60 percent of the U.S. business aviation operators responding to an NBAA survey indicated travel to a foreign region in 2012,” he wrote. “But timelines to receive these authorizations are often measured in months. Recently, the FAA announced that ADS-B approvals would be able to be granted by the flight standards district offices (FSDOs) directly, thereby decreasing approval times.”

Still, more progress needs to be made, Bolen noted, citing long timelines for operator certifications for operators of business aircraft, including for Part 135 air carrier certificates for passenger or cargo charter operations, and Part 125 air operator certificates commonly needed for companies operating a corporate shuttle to transport employees between cities where the company does business.

“In both of these cases, operators are often told it will take a year or more before the FAA will begin the application and review process,” Bolen wrote, based on limited FAA inspector resources.

Similar improvements are essential in accelerating the timelines for certifications of aircraft and aircraft parts to halt disproportionately rising costs that are transferred from general aviation manufacturers to end users that result from lengthy certification times.

In order for continued improving such timelines, Bolen said that “NBAA fully supports Congress’ continued commitment to increase the inspector workforce at FAA.”

Review Bolen’s full written testimony.