Safety and Innovation: With Rule Changes, Hybrid and Electric Propulsion Are Taking Off

July 13, 2017
From very high voltage systems to specialized cooling and battery monitoring systems, the introduction of hybrid and all electric aircraft will have significant impact on the aircraft maintenance environment

I was thrilled to watch history take place earlier this year, with the first public airshow including an all-electric aircraft at AERO Friedrichshafen in Germany. This year has certainly been an exciting one for innovation in the general aviation industry, particularly in the areas of hybrid and electric propulsion. Helping pave the way for these innovations has been the rewrite of the design rules for normal category aircraft, Part 23 rule in the United States and the CS-23 rule rewrite in Europe, which go into effect in August.

The rewrite of these rules forms part of a global, harmonized effort to develop common design certification standards, removing regulatory barriers and promoting the acceptance of airplanes and products worldwide. As part of GAMA’s ongoing commitment to ensuring an industrywide understanding of these rule changes -- and highlight the possibilities of what could be if this same type of risk based international certification rulemaking approach is extended in the future to engines and propellers, rotorcraft, and transport category fixed wing aircraft -- we worked with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to create and host a series of trainings about the Part 23 rule rewrite to offer interested aviation community members an opportunity to learn about the new design environment of the rules and ensure they understand the immediate benefits. As part of our training series, we hosted the final day of the Uber Elevate Summit, during which we hosted one of our Part 23 workshops. Uber Elevate, an associate member company of GAMA, is working with manufacturers, regulators, and government officials to accelerate the development of airborne on-demand mobility that is enabled by electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft. The summit Uber Elevate hosted was the first of its kind, and the attendance at it indicated the high-level of interest in this fast-growing on-demand mobility sector. Expectations are that new designs like eVTOL, as well as traditional aircraft designs, will be able to take advantage of the reformed standards. Without the new environment created by the Part 23 rule rewrite, there would be significant constraints and even some barriers for these types of technologies.

GAMA is proud to help lead the way in this growing area of our industry through the work of our Electric Propulsion and Innovation Committee (EPIC), assuring the hybrid and electric propulsion sector can shepherd innovation into the traditional regulatory regimes governing the design and operation of aircraft. We created the Electric Propulsion and Innovation Committee and an associate member category of our association in late 2015 to facilitate and represent the general aviation industry’s hybrid and electric propulsion efforts as well as focus its ongoing safety improvement initiatives toward simplified aircraft operation. Committee membership has quickly grown, with over 50 companies now represented on the committee, which is collaboratively working toward establishing global standards for the industry. GAMA also intends to support similar Part 23 rule rewrite training sessions in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, and Europe in the coming year to ensure a global understanding of the rules changes.

The introduction of hybrid and all-electric aircraft will have significant impact on the aircraft maintenance environment. From very high voltage systems to specialized cooling and battery monitoring systems, the excitement of this new area has the potential to re-energize aviation (pun intended). Over the coming year, the GAMA EPIC plans to engage further with the aviation maintenance community to assure that the appropriate information and training is disseminated to allow for the best possible airworthiness support of these new products.

We invite you to come by the GAMA booth at the Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture in Oshkosh, WI, this month to learn more about hybrid and electric propulsion, GAMA EPIC, and get an up-close look of all electric aircraft. Among the items we will have on display will be the all-electric Extra 300, powered by a Siemens electric powerplant.

About the Author

Pete Bunce

Pete Bunce is the president and CEO of GAMA, an international trade association representing more than 100 of the world’s leading manufacturers of general aviation airplanes and rotorcraft, engines, avionics, components and related services. GAMA’s members also operate repair stations, fixed based operations, pilot and maintenance training facilities and they manage fleets of aircraft. You can read more about GAMA’s activities on our Web site at and on our Facebook page at!/General.Aviation.Manufacturers.Association.