The European Aviation Safety Agency has set a 2016 goal to rewrite regulations governing small aircraft, with the aim of incorporating many of the recommendations of the internationally-based Part 23 Reorganization aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC). EASA is one of several international communities working in concert to lay the groundwork for one of the most ambitious overhauls of certification regulations ever undertaken.

The ARC this week completed its task developing a new approach to certifying small aircraft when it handed over the final recommendations to FAA. The preliminary recommendations actually had been presented to FAA earlier last month. The formal FAA review is beginning, but officials at the highest levels of the agency have committed to moving forward as expeditiously as possible on the effort.

At the same time a number of international regulators, including those from EASA, Brazil and New Zealand, are among those looking at means to implement the recommendations. EASA has included the 2016 target for reorganizing Part 23 in its latest rulemaking program.

While FAA officials have publicly stressed its intention to press forward with the effort – FAA Administrator Michael Huerta has highlighted the effort on numerous occasions -- Congress is making its own statement that it expects FAA to follow through on the effort.

Lawmakers in both the House and Senate have introduced legislation, the Small Airplane Revitalization Act of 2013, to require that FAA complete a rulemaking that essentially implements the ARC recommendations by 2015.

Greg Bowles, director of engineering and manufacturing for the General Aviation Manufacturers Association and co-chair of the ARC, concedes that is an “uncomfortable” deadline, a year earlier than FAA’s own plans, but it stresses the importance of getting the rule out, even when FAA is grappling with budget constraints.

The Senate bill, introduced by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), has eight co-sponsors. The House bill, meanwhile, introduced by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) now has 25 co-sponsors.

The ARC recommendations were developed with the goal of cutting the costs of certification in half while more than doubling safety – a goal that the ARC believes will be met. “We think we can actually more than double real-world safety,” Bowles has said.

The ARC recommendations call for moving away from the current prescriptive approach to one that adapts to new technologies. This would be accomplished by the creation of an international committee, comprising both government and industry experts, to establish standards for new technologies, similar to that done by ASTM for light-sport aircraft.

This would enable the experts in their field to guide standards rather than government regulatory bodies trying to keep up with evolving technologies. It would relieve the burden from FAA and other government agencies that have limited resources to keep up with changes in the marketplace and help get products to market sooner. But unlike light-sport aircraft, the regulatory bodies would still have final certification approvals. The recommendations further would reclassify light aircraft by complexity rather than weight.

While rulemaking is required for such a change, FAA is beginning to look at changes that it can make sooner that would not require regulation, Bowles says. For instance, some of the certification changes can already be applied to primary category aircraft, he says. In addition to ensuring follow through on the recommendations, ARC members are now shifting their attention to the new standards-setting body – the ASTM F44 committee -- which already has begun meeting, he says.

“The secret is we all have to keep marching together now that the ARC is over,” Bowles says.