Creating a New Generation of Aircraft and Pilots

Gregory J. Bowles

An Interview with Gregory J. Bowles of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association

An international trade association, GAMA represents more than 85 of the world's leading manufacturers of general aviation aircraft, components and related services. GAMA's director of European regulatory affairs and engineering, Gregory J. Bowles, talks about general aviation, advocacy and standards.

How would you summarize GAMA's efforts to create a regulatory environment that is more conducive to general aviation?

General aviation encompasses all civil aviation activities except for those of the scheduled commercial airliners. Since GA includes so much, the size and performance of aircraft and the range of operational complexity vary tremendously. At the lightest end of GA, you can find the lone pilot flying a single engine sport aircraft that weighs little more than the average snowmobile, while on the heaviest end, general aviation includes aircraft that carry heads of state such as Air Force One, a Boeing 747 weighing nearly a million pounds.

The European and U.S. regulations governing the design of small airplanes weighing up to 12,500 pounds (5.700 kg) are contained in a set of requirements known as Special Federal Aviation Regulation No. 23 (CS-23) and Part 23 - Airworthiness Standards: Normal, Utility, Acrobatic, and Commuter Category Airplanes, respectively. Even this range of aircraft presents difficulty as there are so many variants. These requirements are based on technology dating from 40 years ago, very prescriptive and not written in a manner that properly addresses the range of aircraft that is currently produced, let alone those that will be designed in the future.

Over the last seven years, GAMA has been working with the world's leading aviation authorities to revitalize the regulations for the design of small GA airplanes. This approach is intended to facilitate globally harmonized requirements that capture the high-level safety objectives of aircraft design while transitioning to an environment where the detailed methods of complying with these requirements reside in internationally accepted consensus standards. Recently, the U.S. Congress passed the Small Airplane Revitalization Act of 2013, which directs the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to put these changes into regulation by December 15, 2015. Similarly, the European Aviation Safety Agency is prioritizing a parallel rulemaking effort, along with other key regulators around the world, including Brazil, Canada, China and New Zealand.

What role do you anticipate that standards will have with the coming revisions of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration's Part 23?

Standards have always played an important role for the FAA, but under the future regulatory environment, standards will play a more prominent and organized role in airplane design. This change is occurring in the United States and also on an international scale, as key aviation regulators around the world realize the benefits of flexibility and the ability to keep standards current.

How does GAMA anticipate that standards from ASTM Committee F44 on General Aviation Aircraft will benefit the industry overall?

As the ASTM International F44 standards for general aviation come into being, changes in the aviation sector will grow in significance. Initially, it is anticipated that new safety-enhancing equipment upgrades and capabilities will be available to the existing fleet of aircraft at beneficial prices. Over time, it is anticipated that companies will invest in all-new aircraft designs that approach safety solutions in ways that have not been seen to date.

A decade from now, there is a hope that the general aviation industry can provide a host of new aircraft that enables a new generation of pilots. Today, the average global general aviation airplane is approximately 45 years old. ASTM standards will play a key role in assuring that those older products continue to fly safely and efficiently and that new, cost-effective products can replace the old ones.

What other work does GAMA do to foster a strong and healthy worldwide general aviation manufacturing industry?

From its start in 1970, GAMA has been devoted to one primary purpose: to foster and advance the general welfare, safety, interests and activities of GA. GAMA's sole focus is on facilitating the growth and vitality of GA around the world. The specific strategies for 2014 are designed to support a dynamic and sustainable global general aviation manufacturing industry whose products link nations and their communities, facilitate business and create jobs. This includes promoting a better understanding of general aviation and the important role it plays in economic growth and in serving the transportation needs of communities, companies and individuals worldwide.

Headquartered in Washington D.C., with an office in Brussels, Belgium, and representation in Beijing, China, and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, GAMA represents the interests of its members to government agencies throughout the world. These interests include legislation, safety regulations and standards, market access, development of aviation infrastructure and aviation security. GAMA also engages with the International Civil Aviation Organization process on behalf of its members and works with national and international industry groups to promote the interests of general aviation worldwide.

Through its public information and education programs, GAMA promotes better understanding of general aviation and the important role it plays in economic growth and in serving the transportation needs of communities, companies and individuals worldwide.

What is GAMA doing in its aviation advocacy work?

The foundation of GAMA's organizational strength is its members. We actively coordinate with our board of industry executives as well as other industry leaders on key aviation policy initiatives worldwide. GAMA serves its membership by providing timely information and analysis about general aviation issues and by effectively representing the industry before regulators and policymakers globally. GAMA also communicates the economic contributions and societal benefits of general aviation to the media, government officials and the communities GA serves.

GAMA has a robust agenda for 2014. This includes raising GA safety levels worldwide by enabling the development of new general aviation products and the adoption of new safety technologies for small airplanes and rotorcraft. We hope to help reduce fatal airplane and helicopter accidents by advancing public-private partnerships like the U.S. General Aviation Joint Steering Committee and the European General Aviation Safety Team. GAMA plans to facilitate the use and retrieval of electronic flight data to inform safety activities and promote the use of safety risk analysis by aviation regulators and conduct outreach about GA safety efforts.

In its focus on effectiveness and efficiency regarding government and regulations for general aviation aircraft, GAMA is promoting and participating in such initiatives as improving FAA and EASA certification procedures while strengthening safety oversight and support for new products and technologies. We're also working on consistent and appropriate airworthiness standards for business aircraft cabin interiors, improving repair station flexibility and enhancing security programs. We are striving for appropriate oversight, accountability and funding for aviation safety regulators, and partnering with government and industry stakeholders to advance environmental goals, policies to foster GA growth and technology to reduce costs while improving service delivery.

This year, GAMA continues its work to build awareness of the economic impact and value of GA through meetings in the United States and abroad. We have jointly, with the National Business Aviation Association, launched an advocacy campaign, No Plane No Gain, to reinforce the value of business aviation. We're using social media to promote awareness of GA activities such as these, and we're spotlighting our efforts on work force education, support for U.S. military veterans and for job creation.

GAMA is also concentrating on strengthening access and markets for GA worldwide with initiatives for adopting business aviation principles in the Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East, and is advocating for European aviation regulations that conform to the European Union's GA safety strategy.

GREGORY J. BOWLES is the director of European regulatory affairs and engineering for the General Aviation Manufacturers Association. He focuses mainly on legislation, regulation and policy affecting airframe design, systems and avionics as well as aerospace manufacturing and quality. Bowles also serves as chairman of ASTM International Committee F44 on General Aviation Aircraft.

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