On The Radar
The comment period for the FAA’s proposed Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR) for Integration of Powered Lift: Pilot Certification and Operations closed on August 14, with the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) submitting comments on behalf of multiple member companies looking to introduce new advanced air mobility (AAM) services. The proposed rules are intended to form a foundation for the introduction of eVTOL aircraft in the U.S. in 2025.
GAMA’s submission highlighted four aspects of the SFAR about which aircraft manufacturers have concerns, namely: the basis on which pilots will be certified to fly the new aircraft types; dual controls in the flight deck; flight simulation training devices; and requirements for the energy reserves electric aircraft will need to have to ensure they can land safely in the event of an emergency. The industry group has called for a performance-based regulatory framework covering all elements of the SFAR, saying that this approach is imperative to support the early adoption of AAM.
Among GAMA’s proposals was a call for the initial cohorts of eVTOL pilots to be certificated by adding a powered-lift type rating to an existing airplane or helicopter category type certificate and to apply what the association said would be appropriate operating rules for power-lift operations based on the performance characteristics of each aircraft type. The group also called on the FAA to address the sections of the proposed SFAR covering, “the legacy fuel-based energy reserves and the antiquated requirement to design and certificate a dual control variant of each aircraft platform.”
“We acknowledge the significant work and challenges created for both industry and government by the decision to type certificate eVTOL aircraft as powered-lift and urge the FAA to take full consideration of the expertise behind the safety-based comments provided by a very broad group of AAM manufacturers, operators, and industry trade groups,” said GAMA president and CEO Pete Bunce. “We must ensure the final SFAR establishes a practical pathway to initial pilot certification as well as an appropriate operational framework consistent with the U.S.-led initiative at ICAO. Doing so would provide a clear regulatory framework to ensure safety and facilitate industry growth in the U.S. and worldwide. Failure to provide timely and practical regulatory certainty will jeopardize the U.S. industry’s global leadership in advanced air mobility.”
Bunce pointed out that the FAA itself has supported the objective of starting eVTOL air services in the U.S. in early 2025, less than 24 months from now. He pointed to the publication last month of the regulator's Innovate 28 AAM implementation plan, which specifically calls for these operations to be integrated "at scale" in key early-adopter cities in time for the 2028 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
GAMA’s submission to the FAA was supported by multiple other stakeholder groups including the NBAA, Aerospace Industries Association, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Experimental Aircraft Association, Helicopter Association International, National Air Transportation Association, and the Vertical Flight Society.
NBAA's input in the submission was based on the work of its AAM Roundtable and Emerging Technology Committee. In a statement on August 15, the association maintained that the FAA proposals are not aligned with existing ICAO standards and so risk, "creating an unnecessary burden for many powered-lift manufacturers and operators, and establishing impossible mandates for powered-lift with single-set controls."
The industry groups are concerned that, as drafted, the SFAR could mean the AAM sector fails to fulfill its potential. "The proposal for airman qualification creates a barrier to most AAM aircraft manufacturers to enter the U.S. market and the proposed operations rules create an uneven playing field for powered-lift aircraft, failing to take advantage of the many benefits provided by vertical lift takeoff and landing capabilities," they stated in the joint submission.