For the first time, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has used consensus standards for aircraft design, manufacturing, and maintenance with the acceptance of 15 standards developed by ASTM International Committee F37 on Light Sport Aircraft. The referenced documents, which have been worked on over the last two years, affect fixed-wing airplanes, powered parachutes, gyroplanes, lighter-than-air aircraft, airframe emergency parachutes, and engines.
Earl Lawrence, chair of F37 and vice president of government and industry affairs for the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), said the event is historic because the FAA has accepted industry-developed standards instead of federal regulatory standards and because the manufacture of light-sport aircraft moves one step closer.
F37 organized in 2002 to respond to the FAAs call for the recreational aircraft industry to develop consensus standards; the committee includes active FAA representation as well as all interested stakeholders - light sport aircraft and parts manufacturers, instructors, user groups, pilots, and regulatory representatives. More than 200 members of this multinational initiative have dedicated a great deal of time to this process.
The ASTM committee quickly formulated a structure, drafted bylaws, and began work facilitated by virtual meetings, ASTMs web-based teleconferencing system, to accelerate their standards development activities. As a result, F37 has a portfolio of 20 approved standards and over a half-dozen drafts in development. Some F37 subcommittees have met for more than two hours each week to ensure that issues related to work items would be resolved, redrafting would proceed efficiently, and work would progress. In addition, the entire committee would meet virtually on occasion, as did committee leadership to coordinate their agenda. "F37s accelerated birth and growth is a testimony to the use of virtual meetings as a means to persistently work through the consensus process," said Dan Schultz, ASTM staff manager for F37; "ASTM has the tools in place so that committees may respond efficiently and effectively to marketplace needs."
Elizabeth Cory, FAA deputy, public affairs, Great Lakes and Central Regions, notes that the effort grows out of the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act of 1995 and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-119, both of which state that government should use consensus standards. She adds, "Accepting the ASTM standards demonstrates the FAAs role as a partner with industry and the public in developing and implementing the use of consensus standards for the LSA community."
F37 continues work on a maintenance manual standard for all LSA aircraft and the wing interface standard for powered parachutes. Subcommittees also continue to develop other standards for glider, gyroplane, lighter-than-air, and weight-shift control aircraft.
For more information about F37 and its standards development work, contact Daniel Schultz, ASTM International (phone: 610/832-9716; email@example.com).