CAA re­laxes rules for flight test­ing ex­per­i­men­tal air­craft

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The CAA has in­tro­duced sim­pler re­quire­ments for ap­prov­ing the ini­tial flight test­ing of small ex­per­i­men­tal air­craft. ‘Known as E Con­di­tions, they will ben­e­fit small-scale air­craft de­sign­ers and man­u­fac­tur­ers by re­duc­ing the red tape and fi­nan­cial bur­dens as­so­ci­ated with se­cur­ing air­wor­thi­ness and op­er­a­tional ap­proval for new light air­craft de­signs, en­cour­ag­ing the growth of new de­sign con­cepts,’ says the Author­ity.

The new re­quire­ments al­low air­craft de­sign­ers to try out a new con­cept air­craft up to a max­i­mum take­off weight of 2,000kg in the air with­out go­ing through the costly and time-con­sum­ing pro­ce­dures that cur­rently ex­ist to get a new de­sign past the ini­tial pro­to­type. Stage. E Con­di­tions can also be used to test mod­i­fi­ca­tions. If, af­ter try­ing out a promis­ing idea, it is thought to be vi­able, then a full de­sign ap­proval pro­gramme can be planned and funded in the usual way.

In­di­vid­u­als and or­gan­i­sa­tions con­duct­ing proof of con­cept flights will still be re­quired to un­der­take a risk as­sess­ment to sup­port the ac­tiv­ity and in par­tic­u­lar, en­sure that the risks to third par­ties are ad­dressed. For ex­am­ple, flights would not be al­lowed over con­gested ar­eas, the pi­lot must be suit­ably qual­i­fied and no pas­sen­gers or cargo can be car­ried.

Tony Rap­son, Head of the CAA’S Gen­eral Avi­a­tion Unit said, “We’ve worked closely with the de­sign­ers and man­u­fac­tur­ers of light air­craft to de­velop th­ese new re­quire­ments in the hope that they can be part of the work to re­verse the de­cline in the num­ber of new air­craft de­signed and de­vel­oped in the UK. We will ab­so­lutely com­mit to make it as easy as pos­si­ble for peo­ple to safely progress and test de­signs.”

John Ed­g­ley, Chair of the Royal Aero­nau­ti­cal So­ci­ety Gen­eral Avi­a­tion Group, com­mented, “We have a long-held view that the rules gov­ern­ing the test­ing of ex­per­i­men­tal air­craft should be made eas­ier to trial new air­craft de­signs which would have oth­er­wise re­mained on the shelf or cre­ated abroad. We are de­lighted the CAA has em­braced the need for change and led the de­vel­op­ment of an ini­tia­tive with the po­ten­tial to de­liver sig­nif­i­cant ben­e­fits for the avi­a­tion sec­tor, in­clud­ing the re­newal of a vi­brant UK light air­craft in­dus­try.”

In wel­com­ing the CAA ini­tia­tive, Light Avi­a­tion As­so­ci­a­tion Chief En­gi­neer Fran­cis Don­ald­son said, “The LAA wel­comes this new method of clear­ing air­craft for flight test, which we hope will en­cour­age UK de­sign­ers to come up with some in­ter­est­ing new de­signs. It will al­low them to be tested un­der con­trolled con­di­tions, but with­out the need for ev­ery as­pect of the de­sign to have first been ap­proved by the CAA or a Caa-ap­proved or­gan­i­sa­tion. Un­der the E con­di­tions process, the re­spon­si­bil­ity for safety lies en­tirely with the per­son run­ning the pro­gramme, al­low­ing new con­cepts to be tested more quickly and giv­ing the in­no­va­tor bet­ter con­trol over both project timescales and cost”.

The fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ple of an op­er­a­tion un­der E Con­di­tions is that a Dec­la­ra­tion is filed with the CAA by some­one who has met the re­quire­ments for an E Con­di­tions ‘com­pe­tent per­son’ and who will take sole re­spon­si­bil­ity for the safe con­duct of the en­tire ex­per­i­men­tal test pro­gramme. The new CAA process al­lows pro­fes­sional qual­i­fi­ca­tions granted by the Royal Aero­nau­ti­cal So­ci­ety to pro­vide one route to com­pe­tent per­son sta­tus. Al­ter­na­tively com­pe­ten­cies can be as­sessed by the LAA and BMAA.

De­tails of the new process can be found at caa.co.uk/ga and on the Royal Aero­nau­ti­cal So­ci­ety’s web­site at aeroso­ci­ety.com/ Pro­fes­sional-recog­ni­tion/e-con­di­tions.

Test pi­lot Keith Den­ni­son gives the first pub­lic demonstrat­ion of the e-go. Flight test­ing of other new types will now be eas­ier

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