On The Radar
EASA this week issued a notice of proposed amendment (NPA) intended to make it easier to certify, manufacture, and operate new types of aircraft—including new eVTOL models—that are not fully taken into account by existing regulations. The NPA 2021-15 document published on December 21 proposes changes to continuing airworthiness rules that the European agency says will “close the gaps that currently exist in Regulation (EU) No 1321/2014, which pose compliance difficulties in relation to the management of manned aircraft that are not conventional or have a powerplant other than a piston turbine engine or turbine.”
In particular, the amendments seek to alter requirements that EASA says are currently “unnecessarily explicit” in terms of how the characteristics of aircraft and their propulsion systems are defined and categorized. This would cover new types of powerplants, including electric and hybrid-electric. The rule changes are intended to maintain airworthiness standards while avoiding the need for EASA member states to use exemptions to approve non-conforming aircraft. They also cover factors such as training and maintenance.
The 74-page NPA document is open for public comments through March 21, 2022. EASA’s aim is to make a proposal for the amended rules to the European Commission in 2023, with a view to issuing final rulings on certification, specification, and means of compliance in 2024.
Several eVTOL aircraft developers, including Lilium, Vertical Aerospace, and Volocopter, are already engaging with EASA over type certification plans on the basis of previously proposed “special conditions” to cover the new aircraft architectures and systems. Generally, the new aviation companies seem to have been working under the assumption that exemptions will be required for several aspects of type certification for the early phase of advanced air mobility operations.