Would Have Hurt Small Business, Compromised Safety
The FAA has changed a
final rule that would have had a severe impact on the ability of
aircraft owners to improve their aircraft, including safety
enhancements. The agency recently announced it agreed with AOPA's
assertions "the impact of a new noise standard on already
certificated aircraft could be significant" -- which, perhaps,
isn't exactly new, as the FAA conceded the same thing when the rule
was initially proposed in 2004.
The final rule on single-engine airplane noise notes, "The FAA
agrees with AOPA that the new standard should not apply to
supplemental type certificates."
The new standards aim to reduce noise levels anywhere from 3 to
6 decibels, depending on gross weight. Under the new restrictions,
a new aircraft such as a Cessna 172 (below) will have to be quieter
than a lawnmower.
The FAA had originally proposed tightening the noise standards
for small aircraft to bring U.S. regulations into conformity with
international ICAO rules. But the rule, as it was originally
written, would have applied to any change to an older aircraft
that might affect its "acoustic signature."
As was reported in Aero-News in June
2004, the FAA conceded rule would have stipulated
whenever a modification was made to an older aircraft that
potentially altered the level and type of noise it produces -- such
as adding new, more efficient propeller -- the aircraft would then
have been required to comply with much harsher noise
"That could have prevented aircraft owners from making safety
and utility improvements to their aircraft," said Luis Gutierrez,
AOPA director of regulatory and certification policy, "and
definitely hurt the small companies that offer those improvements
under the supplemental type certificate (STC) process."
As AOPA requested, the
FAA said the noise rule will not apply to STCs for aircraft
certificated under previous standards. It will, however, apply to
all airplanes for which a new original type certification
application is submitted on or after February 3, 2006, and will
also apply to any future STCs related to type certificates issued
under the new standard.
While the decision is certainly a boon to owners of older
aircraft, and the shops performing modifications to them... ANN
still finds it disturbing it took the FAA 18 months to,
essentially, agree with itself...