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Flight Design Breaks New Ground with C4 Certification Approach
By James Wynbrandt
July 25, 2015 - While others talk about the innovations the delayed Part 23 rewrite will unleash, aircraft manufacturer Flight Design is blazing a new certification trail in developing its high-wing four-place C4, proceeding as if the anticipated new FAA rules were already in place. Here at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, attendees can see the work in progress at the company’s exhibition area (Booth 83-87), where a cabin mock-up of the new aircraft is on display.
Flight Design is first certifying the C4 to EASA’s new CS-23 rules—Europe’s equivalent of the FAA’s Part 23.
“There are opportunities that we are anticipating under the new Part 23, and many of those are already available in the EASA system,” explained Tom Peghiny, president of Flight Design USA, the U.S arm of the Germany-based company.
The goal of the EASA and anticipated revised FAA rules is to encourage manufacturers to introduce innovative technologies in their products, increasing safety and lowering the cost of aircraft. Among the most important revisions of EASA’s rules is design organization approval, providing qualified manufacturers with authority to design and test its own equipment during the certification process.
“The main thing is that it cuts down on time required for certification, and time really is money in certification programs,” Peghiny said.
Under traditional Part 23 rules for both the FAA and EASA, the same certification rules apply to a two-place piston aircraft as a 19-passenger business jet.
The new rules are to be based on the concept of “risk-based decision making” by the agencies, which will make certification less costly, though theoretically no less safe, for smaller aircraft.
With the revolution in digital avionics, panel ware is one significant place for cost-savings. In the C4, the center avionics/instrument stack includes a Garmin GTN 750 GPS/nav/comm/MFD, transponder, backup radio, and steam gauges.
Meanwhile, the Garmin G3X Touch touchscreen PFD/MFDs in front of the pilot and co-pilot (which would not meet current FAA rules because they are non-TSO’d) are designated for “additional situational awareness.” Said Peghiny, “Flight Design engineers’ job is to prove with testing that [the installation] is suitable for this airplane.”
By allowing Flight Design rather than a government agency to approve the equipment, “it greatly reduces cost for the end user,” said Peghiny.
The company expects to receive EASA CS-23 certification for the C4 “around this time next year,” he said, and the aircraft will then go through the FAA’s validation process for certification in the U.S. The streamlined certification is enabling Flight Design to offer the C4 for $250,000.
FAA Administrator Michael Huerta visited Flight Design during his Oshkosh visit and discussed “harmonizing the new Part 23 with the new EASA CS-23” rules, a conversation Peghiny described as “substantive.”
Also discussed was Germany’s “safety box” program that Flight Design is voluntarily taking part in, a holistic approach to occupant safety using automotive concepts such as “crumple zones.” The program is a partnership between government, academia, and industry aimed at developing new crashworthiness systems and techniques for light aircraft, “to create occupant protection for aircraft similar to automobiles,” Peghiny said.
Meanwhile, he enthused about the new rules Flight Design has used to bring the C4 to market. “We’re hoping this will start a revolution in reducing the cost of certification, and make it easier for new technology to be incorporated in new airplanes.”