In recent years, the regulatory road has gotten easier for certain aviation sectors due to their use of ASTM International’s standards development process. Consensus standards development within ASTM Committee F37 on Light Sport Aircraft is resulting in enormous growth for the light sport industry worldwide. The unmanned aircraft industry has the potential for similar growth since stakeholders within it formed Committee F38 on Unmanned Aircraft Systems in 2003. And the standardization of electrical wiring maintenance procedures for small aircraft is now possible since the 2004 formation of Committee F39 on Normal and Utility Category Airplane Electrical Wiring Systems.
Ultimately, the story of ASTM International aviation standards is about the successful partnership between a U.S. federal agency and the industry it regulates. The common thread through the formation of all three technical committees above is the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. In 2002, Committee F37 was formed when the FAA, which did not have the staff necessary to create and maintain standards that would make it possible for light sport aircraft to safely occupy national airspace, and LSA industry stakeholders agreed to try the forum that is ASTM’s standards development process. The result was the creation, in under two years, of a suite of standards for LSA that have been accepted by the FAA and which have enabled the very existence of a viable LSA industry.
The effects of this government-industry partnership have rippled out internationally, with the national aviation agencies of Australia, Chile, Colombia and South Africa adopting F37’s standards in their regulations or certification programs; several more such adoptions are pending.
Encouraged by the work of ASTM Committee F37, the FAA went on to play a role in the formation of Committees F38 and F39. As with LSA, the unmanned aircraft represented by stakeholders in Committee F38 cannot occupy national airspace without standards that reassure the FAA on safety issues such as collision avoidance and emergency communication with ground control. Ongoing standards development in that committee may in the future enable the safe operation of unmanned aircraft in dozens of civilian and military scenarios. And Committee F39, which was initiated by the FAA’s Small Aircraft Directorate, is starting work on standards for electrical wiring system design, fabrication, modification, inspection and maintenance that will replace outdated FAA documents.
In this issue, we cover the recent history of these new ASTM International committees and study their impact on the aviation industry. It’s a classic success story of the intersection between public-interest regulation and industry viability that anyone can appreciate.
Editor in Chief