FAA Part 23 Rewrite Transforms General Aviation to Meet New Demands Written 27 June 2018

Panelists: Moderator Nicolas Borer, advanced air vehicle configurator technical lead, Aeronautics Systems Analysis Branch, NASA’s Langley Research Center; Ella Atkins, professor of aerospace engineering, University of Michigan; Anna Dietrich, co-founder, Terrafugia; Stephane Fymat, vice president of product management and marketing, BendixKing, Honeywell Aerospace; Zohaib Mian, senior autonomous systems architect, Mercedes-Bosch Autonomous Driving Project, Robert Bosch LLC; Wes Ryan, unmanned systems certification lead, Policy & Innovation Division, FAA; David Sizoo, FAA

by Hannah Thoreson, AIAA Communications

Participants in the panel discussion "Entering a New Era of General Aviation (Part 23)," June 27 at the 2018 AIAA AVIATION Forum in Atlanta. 

General aviation is transforming from a world of very uniform small aircraft to one of a mix of air vehicles, both manned and unmanned, and technology and infrastructure must adjust to accommodate new types of vehicles into the national airspace, a panel of experts said June 27 during the “Entering a New Era of General Aviation (Part 23)” session at the 2018 AVIATION Forum in Atlanta. 

Wes Ryan, unmanned systems certification lead at the FAA, touched on safety in general aviation and said it has improved over the past several years. 

“We were flat in our fatal accidents for general aviation aircraft for a very long time, and over the last several years, we’ve seen a marked, measurable decline in fatal accidents in general aviation aircraft,” Ryan said. “We believe that is from the technology initiatives and also coming from some of the training aspects that we’ve done and collective efforts for safety. But we’d like to give credit to a lot of the new technology and the new ideas that industry has brought to us like moving map displays, GPS, envelope protection autopilots, all of those kinds of things.” 

David Sizoo, an FAA test pilot, said there is still room for improvement with small airplanes. 

“In general aviation in the United States alone, there is a fatal accident once every two or three days. We can do much better than that,” Sizoo said, adding that he believes that fly-by wire technology needs to become more affordable for general aviation pilots. 

Ella Atkins, a professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Michigan, also zeroed in on the cost of improvement in aircraft electronics as a major burden for general aviation pilots. 

“One of the big pushbacks from the general aviation community is that ‘we can’t afford to spend another $15-20,000 for new avionics,’” Atkins said. 

Anna Dietrich, co-founder of Terrafugia, said recent changes in the FAA regulatory schema for general aviation will also help accelerate the transformation of the space. 

Dietrich said before the Part 23 rewrite, it was meant for fixed-wing aircraft and that Part 27 was for rotor-wing. 

“They were kind of self-replicating,” she said. “You followed a very prescriptive set of rules, and you got a very predictable set of aircraft out the other end.” 

Dietrich said that during the Part 23 rewrite, the prescriptive language was removed.

“We took that all out,” she said, adding, “Part 23 is a good solution for eVTOL and on-demand aircraft.” 

However, Dietrich said the days of standard fixed-wing general aviation aircraft under the new schema might be numbered. 

“I think that the days of, ‘I’m going to have my own plane that I keep in my own hangar that I fly on the weekends,” that’s going to be very clearly a hobby,” she said. “But that’s not where aviation is headed.”


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