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Sat, Nov 26, 2022

Update: FAA Publishes Draft Rule to Include Powered-Lift Under Air Carrier Def's

Administration Does Some Needed Housekeeping Before Commercial eVTOL Operators Arrive to the Party

The FAA has published a draft regarding an update to Air Carrier definitions that would add all powered-lift to existing definitions. 

 The draft says that the rule is an "important step in the FAA's integration of new entrant aircraft in the National Airspace System”, paving the way for the expected wave of eVTOL aircraft on the way. The upcoming slate of electric or hybrid multirotor aircraft is expected to begin entry into commercial service by decade's end, with most manufacturers hard at work developing their aircraft for certification within the next 3-5 years. The onslaught of multiple new makes and models all offering point-to-point air taxi services outside the traditional aeronautical ecosystem makes for a daunting regulatory challenge for the administration, adding an entirely new swath of possibilities heretofore unseen in traditional fixed and rotary-wing aircraft. This change will only be the first bit of regulatory tidying-up the FAA does before the new guests arrive, codifying the definition of “Air Carriers” to include operators of eVTOL aircraft. In addition to this change, the FAA is hard at work developing pilot requirements for the new aircraft. Those standards are likely to be published sometime in the latter half of 2023, fortuitously released around the same time as the first type certification for an eVTOL aircraft.

In addition to the housekeeping, the FAA also proposed updates to a handful of basic requirements regarding carrier oversight, probably aiming to establish a level of aeronautical competency for the unorthodox aircraft operators. Aviation is a far different industry from what fast-moving, easygoing tech company executives are accustomed to, after all. The administration could be heading off the chances of inept management over eVTOL companies should executives be selected from outside commercial aviation. Recent events certainly haven’t cast youthful, optimistic, but inexperienced CEOs in a good light. In any case, the rule change will amend the qualification requirements to ensure management of air carriers have "appropriate experience in powered-lift operations".

The FAA describes the rule change as a necessary step to instill safety in fresh soil before the first mass production eVTOL even takes to the skies. "Application of the appropriate set of rules for powered-lift in a range of certificate holders’ operations would serve as both a risk mitigation measure and a framework for FAA oversight, as necessary to achieve the requisite level of safety." 

Interested parties have 60 days to provide comments on the proposed rule.

FMI: www.faa.gov

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