NEWS Alert

FAA to Update Air Carrier Definitions to Include VTOL/Powered-Lift

The FAA is set to adopt regulatory amendments first proposed in the 2022 notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) entitled Update to Air Carrier Definitions. The amendment in question is the addition of powered-lift, also known as Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL), to air carrier definitions, which will take effect on September 25, 2023.

This was announced in the final rule on the Update to Air Carrier Definitions, published on July 26, which adopts the items proposed in the Update to Air Carrier Definitions NPRM without change.

The FAA defines powered-lift aircraft as “a heavier-than-air aircraft capable of vertical takeoff, vertical landing, and low speed flight that depends principally on engine-driven lift devices or engine thrust for lift during these flight regimes and on nonrotating airfoil(s) for lift during horizontal flight.” Powered-lift aircraft include VTOL aircraft such as “convertiplanes” like the V-22 Osprey, as well as eVTOL (electric VTOL) vehicles that could be used to carry passengers over short distances in the future.

Powered-lift will be added to the definitions of five kinds of air carrier operations- commuter, domestic, flag, on-demand, and supplemental. In addition, this rule will also amend the experience requirements for air carrier personnel in certain management positions to ensure that they have appropriate experience in powered-lift operations.

The implication of this rule is that the FAA has begun paving the way for the use of powered-lift aircraft in commercial operations by including its definition in 14 C.F.R. Part 110. This inclusion will trigger the applicability of Parts 119 and 135 to powered-lift/VTOL operations. Specifically, he FAA is laying the groundwork to apply certification (Part 119) and operational oversight standards (Part 135) to VTOL/powered-lift operations. These changes will create regulatory challenges for both the FAA and the industry as FAA embarks on a new regulatory regime as it relates to powered-lift/VTOL operations.

Among the benefits outlined by the FAA of powered-lift operations are the ability to transport heavier loads at higher altitudes as compared to helicopters, while maintaining the ability to take of and land vertically, as well as the possibility of utilizing heliports to transport passengers over distances that would normally require turbo-prop airspeeds and ranges. The latter, according to the FAA, could have the major benefit of increasing the capacity of the NAS (National Airspace System) and reducing delays without requiring additional infrastructure.

Established in 1999 and based in Washington, DC, TWG has a lengthy record of providing technical assistance to civil aviation authorities (CAAs”) worldwide, including but not limited to the CAAs of India, Panama, Cabo Verde, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, and Trinidad and Tobago. In all, ten FAA Category 1 ratings have been issued to TWG IASA technical assistance clients to date – a 100% track record. TWG also regularly assists foreign air carriers with obtaining the US government approvals needed for US air carrier operations and foreign repair stations with securing FAA certification required to maintain US-registered aircraft.

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