An final rule prohibits the use of Stage 2 business jets in the contiguous U.S. after Dec. 31, 2015.
The rule, published in the July 2 Federal Register, essentially implements a ban that Congress made law as part of the FAA Modernization Reform Act of 2012. Since Congress directed the phaseout, FAA bypassed the notice of proposed rulemaking stage and issued a final rule effective Sept. 3. But FAA is still accepting comments on the rule through Aug. 1.
The rule applies to jet aircraft that weigh less than 75,000 lb. and do not meet Stage 3 noise levels. Congress mandated the phaseout of Stage 2 aircraft weighing more than 75,000 lb. in the Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990. The phaseout of larger Stage 2 aircraft was completed on Dec. 31, 1999, making business jets the last of the non-government Stage 2 aircraft still operating in the contiguous U.S.
“The noise from smaller jet airplanes continues to have an impact on communities near airports,” FAA says, adding this spurred the congressional ban. Congress adopted the measure as more airports, such as Naples Municipal Airport in Florida, have moved to ban Stage 2 business jets. The measure was also developed as the international community sets a goal to move to an all-Stage 4 fleet.
In the U.S., nearly 600 aircraft are registered that meet Stage 2 standards and are affected by the rule. Those aircraft are largely used by corporate operators (349 corporate operators owning 413 airplanes are affected). Another 128 aircraft owned by 55 on-demand operators are affected. The remaining aircraft are owned by leasing companies/brokers, private individuals or financial institutions.
Aircraft can be hushkitted to Stage 3, but currently hushkits are only available for Gulfstream II and III aircraft, which account for 217 of the affected business jets. FAA notes, however, that the hushkit’s cost exceeds the G-II’s value.
Hushkits were formerly produced for the Falcon 20 and23, 24 and 25 jets. But the Falcon 20 hushkit is no longer manufactured and the supplemental type certificate for the Learjet modification was returned to FAA. FAA estimates that in all, 382 affected business jets cannot be brought up to Stage 3 standards. Some 69 Stage 2 Falcon 20s are still on the registry and another 225 Learjets. The rest involve older Astras, Hawker Siddeleys 125s, Jetstars, Jet Commanders, and Sabre/Sabreliners.
This leaves the operators the choice of selling their aircraft outside of the 48 contiguous states, salvaging the aircraft for parts or scrapping the airplane altogether. But FAA warns of a limited market outside the U.S. The number of Stage 2 aircraft in the U.S. eclipses the number in the international community, with a total of 392 Stage 2 business aircraft registered in 50 other countries. Outside the U.S., Mexico is the number one home of Stage 2 business aircraft, with 182 on the registry.
In all, FAA is estimating that the rule will cost operators $330 million, but says “Congress has determined that the benefits exceed the costs.”
The rule, however, does provide for the issuance of special flight authorizations after 2015 for affected business aircraft under certain circumstance. Operators of these business aircraft may seek such authorization if the purpose of the flight is to sell, lease or use the aircraft outside the contiguous U.S.; scrap the airplane; modify the airplane to Stage 3 noise levels; transport to a heavy maintenance facility; return the aircraft to a lessor; prepare to park or store the airplane; provide emergency relief services; or divert the airplane into the 48 contiguous states on account of weather, mechanical, fuel, air traffic control or other safety reasons.