Keeping Pace

By By R&WI Staff | December 1, 2015
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(From left to right) Metro ‘s Milton Geltz, Bell’s Tom Brooks, AgustaWestland’s Fabio Nannoni and the FAA’s Lee Roskop discuss mandates and the challenges of meeting them.

AgustaWestland’s vice president of engineering captured the sense of many at R&WI’s Rotorcraft Certification Summit when he observed that today’s certification processes pose a significant challenge for OEMs and for aviation authorities.

“There are enormous costs for both sides stemming from current certification hurdles,” said the vice president, Fabio Nannoni.


“We need to simplify the approach to certification, leveraging commonality of views” standards, design approaches and technologies and also utilize the technical capability of original equipment manufacturers, said Nannoni, who also serves as head of AgustaWestland’s design organization. “This will free significant resources, as well as favoring investments to improve safety and develop” more environmentally friendly aircraft and airspace procedures.

Nannoni was one of numerous speakers who addressed issues ranging from certification procedural barriers and reforms to the challenges of meeting current equipment mandates and keeping pace with technology.

Metro Aviation Managing Director Milton Geltz gave a detailed speech on the expectations of operators and maintenance and modification shops on bringing new aircraft and equipment to market. He also spoke about the hurdles that were confusing and conflicting and had unclear certification procedures.

Driving Mandates

Bill Chiles of Bristow Group Inc. and HeliOffshore reviewed “insurmountable” challenges overcome in offshore.

An FAA operations research analyst, Lee Roskop, shed light on factors that can drive equipment mandates when he reviewed the agency’s recent study of mechanisms of injury in helicopter accidents. (That study contributed to the launch after the summit of the FAA’s Rotorcraft Occupant Protection Working Group, which is studying how to best increase the use of more crashworthy fuel systems and seats.)

A General Aviation Manufacturers Assn. official, Jonathan Archer, reviewed the status of current efforts to review and revise certification standards of the FAA and the European Aviation Safety Agency, as well as Transport Canada and Brazil’s aviation authority, ANAC. (Those agencies cover the majority of the world’s rotorcraft design centers and certification demands.)

An assistant director of the U.S. General Accountability Office, Vashun Cole, reviewed the FAA’s efforts to comply with U.S. congressional mandates to streamline its certification procedures, as well as the state of international certification procedures.

A panel of manufacturing, engineering, operations and airspace design experts closed out the summit with a discussion of options for rotorcraft to speed the approval and adoption of advanced technologies.

This included a briefing on current U.S. efforts to revise certification procedures from the FAA Rotorcraft Directorate’s manager of regulations and policy, Jorge Castillo.

Complex Processes

New FAA Rotorcraft Directorate Manager Lance Gant joined the Summit’s discussions with GAMA’s Jonathan Archer and GAO’s Vashun Cole.

Regarding the complexity of today’s certification processes, AgustaWestland’s Nannoni offered some examples.

Development of a new rotorcraft may require two to four prototypes or pre-production aircraft that may fly a total of 1,000 to 1,200 flight test hours, he said. The OEM might spend 2.5 million engineering hours on the project, which can take four to five years and entail hundreds of fatigue and development tests (which may continue after type certification).

While a type may be sold around the world, he noted, each nation can require a varying degree of certification requirements, from acceptance of a type certificate issued by another nation to a nearly full-blown certification program.

“Even if rules are similar,” he noted, “specialists’ interpretation of them and of acceptable means of compliance and common practices could differ significantly, requiring long discussions and a lot of time.”

Nannoni pointed to the company’s experience with the AW189. EASA issued its type certificate for the basic configuration of that light intermediate twin in February 2014, he said, but it took the FAA nearly a year to certificate the helicopter.

R&WI Plans Next Summit For 2016

We are planning a second annual Rotorcraft Summit in the fall of this year and are interested in your thoughts on the most worthwhile focus areas for the event.

It is clear from feedback after 2015’s summit that plenty remains to be addressed on certification issues. Other prospective topics for this year could include training, operational data analysis and sharing and safety.

Feel free to contact us with your thoughts at jmckenna@accessintel.com or 301-354-1832.—The Editor

Unsustainable Improvements

Aspen Avionics’ John Uczekaj urged the helicopter industry to be nimbler in embracing new technology.
Photo courtesy of Aspen Avionics

The FAA’s Roskop reviewed a study of occupant protection and survivability in U.S.-registered and type-certificated rotorcraft that the Rotorcraft Directorate performed with the agency’s Civil Aerospace Medical Institute.

The study found that safety efforts such as the International Helicopter Safety Team have described the rate of fatal helicopter accidents since that team was launched in 2006.

“But any improvements have been erratic and have not been sustainable,” Roskop said. Over the previous 10 years, the fatal accident rate has hovered at 0.75 to 0.80 for each 100,000 flight hours, and “the rate shows a pattern of decreases followed by sharp rate increases.”

Additionally, the study found that a lower percentage of U.S.-registered rotorcraft (16%) are fitted with crash-resistant fuel systems. But it also found that, even when post-crash fires occurred, the main reason helicopter occupants died in otherwise survivable accidents was blunt force trauma.

A contributor to this, Roskop said, is the low level of implementation of aircraft seats designed to the last crashworthiness standards. The study indicated that only 10% of U.S.-registered helicopters have such seats, despite the fact that the new standards went into effect in December 1989. But like the crash-resistant fuel systems standards, they only applied to aircraft type-certificated after the standards’ effective date.

Lou Bartolotta said OEMs need to recoup multi-million dollars in development costs in a reasonable timeframe.
Photo courtesy of Lou Bartolotta

“At the current rate of implementation,” Roskop observed, “it will take 250 years for the U.S.-registered fleet to reach 100% compliance” with the more stringent crashworthiness standards.

On the topic of the FAA’s efforts to streamline certification, the GAO’s Cole said the agency has made significant progress in meeting the commitments it made to Congress in response to the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act. The GAO is the investigative arm of Congress and provides information, analysis and recommendations to senators, representatives and their staffs. It also looks into issues at the request of a member of Congress.

“Most of the FAA initiatives to improve its aircraft certification processes have been implemented,” said Cole, adding that it is too early to assess the effects of those changes.

Metro’s Geltz challenged that positive review. Cole explained that the measure was what the FAA had promised Congress to do, which is not necessarily the same as what the agency is delivering to certification applicants.

One of the industry’s main expectations is that the FAA will develop a “master source guidance system” (or the Dynamic Regulatory System) to improve the consistency of how FAA inspectors interpret and apply the agency’s own certification guidance.

Hughes Aerospace’s Chris Baur challenged the industry to embrace scenario-based flight training.
Photo courtesy of Chris Baur

“What we heard in doing our review—and what I’m hearing here [at the summit]—is that industry considers the FAA’s lack of consistent communications as a primary challenge in certification.”

Regarding coordination of international certification standards, GAMA’s Jonathan Archer said the industry is anxious to see the results of a joint FAA-EASA-Transport Canada effort to work with manufacturers and others in revising Federal Aviation Regulations Part/EASA Certification Specification (CS) 23 for small airplanes. That effort could serve as a model of subsequent revisions of Parts/CS 27 and 29 for rotorcraft, Archer said.

(On Dec. 15, GAMA President and CEO Pete Bunce called on the Obama Administration to issue new small-airplane certification rules. The Small Airplane Revitalization Act, signed into law Nov. 27, 2013, set a Dec. 15, 2015, deadline for the FAA to issue final rules. “By comparison, European regulators have found a collaborative way to work with the industry on moving a rule forward and now stand ready to issue their rule before the U.S.,” said Bunce.

FAA, EASA,Canada SignTSO Pacts

Newly revised international agreements should clear obstacles for manufacturers offering helicopter improvements to operators in the U.S., Canada and Europe.

The agreements between the FAA and the European Aviation Safety Agency and between the FAA and Transport Canada cover revisions to bilateral aviation safety agreements between the national pairs that address implementation procedures for safety rules and standards.

The pacts would enable one aviation regulator to use simplified procedures for approving use of equipment covered by another’s technical standard orders (TSOs). TSOs cover a wide variety of aircraft equipment that is not part of an airframe, engine or propeller.

Under the new rules, when EASA or Canada issues a TSO, the FAA will accept it, and vice versa. There are some exceptions. For instance, while the FAA certificates auxiliary power units under TSOs, EASA treats APUs as aircraft engines and issues type certificates for them. So EASA will not accept an APU TSO from the U.S.

A Reform Model

The Part/CS 23 model involves revising current regulations to focus on high-level, safety-driven requirements without prescribing technical solutions.

Under the model, technical solutions are moved to acceptable means of compliance in the form of industry-developed detailed design standards.

These would cover areas such as flight characteristics, performance and operating limits, general and design structures, powerplants, and systems and equipment.

Archer said members of GAMA and the Aerospace and Defence Industries Assn. of Europe kicked off the groups’ joint review of Part/CS 27 and 29 on Oct. 7, 2015. Rather than pursue a wholesale change to those regulations, he said, the members have opted to conduct a strategic review focused on the most burdensome parts of the rules.

Their goal is to present a final report with recommended changes to the aviation authorities in the third quarter of 2017 and to begin development of industry-consensus design standards in the first quarter of 2018.

In the nearer term, the FAA’s Jorge Castillo said the Rotorcraft Directorate is working this year on changing some rules, focusing on ones that “result in recurring special conditions, Equivalent Level of Safety (ELOS) findings and issue papers on means of compliance.”

He said candidates include sections of Parts 27 and 29 that deal with one-engine-inoperative training mode, synthesized power indicators and autopilots and flight directors. Others concern powerplant instrument displays of operating ranges and various battery technologies, such as lithium batteries.


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