The financial turkeys are coming home to roost as the country deals with budget deficits as far as the eye can see. So government is scaling back in non-essential areas. But what’s “non-essential.” Where do some of the FAA’s certification costs come into play?
The FAA certifies pretty much everything that goes on or into aircraft. Most of it works pretty well and we have very few accidents that occur because of a design or manufacturing deficiency. Most of us would probably agree that airframes and engines should be as close to bullet proof as possible. But there is a significant cost -some would say huge – for some of the benefits. Safety at any cost is transportation and utility denied. The cost in factory-built Light Sport Aircraft is much lower (but not low enough for some) due to the industry consensus standard.
But what about non-flight-critical avionics or those that have redundancy? The Air Safety Institute, in the past has asked the FAA to not inject themselves into weather detection for Part 91 operations. The industry has done a marvelous job with satellite datalink weather. The systems have evolved very quickly over the 15 years or so and at very low cost. Airline pilots have often lusted after some of the gear we have but for Part 121 it has to be certified – that’s as it should be. My sense is that if the FAA had insisted on nexrad datalink certification, the equipment would not be in nearly as many cockpits today, many fewer flights would have been completed and arguably, there would have been more accidents.
Could the case be made that for Part 91 ops perhaps perfect is getting in the way of the good? Most legacy aircraft were certificated under CAR-3 and that regulation that has performed exceptionally well. Is Part 23 that much better and at what additional cost? There are standards that are appropriate for some really high performance aircraft that are also being applied to trainers. Maybe there should be a Part 23 Lite?
The Garmin 496 and 696 show much of the same things and perform equally or nearly so to panel mounted equipment, but with a big price differential. FAA Administrator Babbitt has noted that there are 2,200 certification projects that might be delayed because of impending budget cuts. Perhaps not all of them are worthy of such deep scrutiny.
What do you think?