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 June 2007
BARRY BALLENGER is an aerospace engineer with the FAA’s Small Airplane Directorate in Kansas City, Mo. Ballenger is assigned to the Continued Operational Safety branch with the primary function of improving the safety of general aviation. He holds a bachelor’s degree in electronic engineering and an MBA. Ballenger’s background includes 15 years with a major airline and six years with the FAA. Ballenger also holds FAA airframe and powerplant certifications with inspection authorization.

A Public-Private Partnership FAA and Committee F39 Work Together to Enhance Aircraft Safety

The use of voluntary consensus standards by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is a proven method in developing regulatory standards for aviation products. Past aviation-related consensus standards, such as those developed by ASTM’s Committee F37 on Light Sport Aircraft, are typical of successful voluntary consensus standard development.

Public Law 104-113 states that, with some exceptions, federal agencies shall use technical standards that are developed or adopted by voluntary consensus standards bodies as a means to carry out policy objectives. This law also states that “federal agencies and departments shall consult with voluntary, private sector, consensus standards bodies and shall, when such participation is in the public interest and is compatible with agency and departmental missions, authorities, priorities and budget resources, participate with such bodies in the development of technical standards.” In addition, the Office of Management and Budget’s OMB Circular No. A-119 establishes policies on federal use and development of voluntary consensus standards. Consistent with public law and OMB policy, the FAA Small Airplane Directorate supports the development and use of consensus standards. An important aspect of the voluntary consensus standards process is the utilization of industry expertise in developing an agreed-upon set of standards. Consensus standards provide consistent technical data including processes, procedures, rules and conditions. The FAA considers the working relationship with industry a primary asset of the consensus standards process. As aviation product technology continues to expand, industry expertise is necessary in developing governing standards that address the issues of providing a safe and efficient aircraft.

Committee F39 Is Formed

Investigations by the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board cite aging wiring systems as a growing factor in aircraft accidents. The Aging Transport Systems Rulemaking Advisory Committee was formed to collect data on aging wiring systems through airplane inspections, reviews of manufacturer service information and reviews of operator maintenance programs. After analyzing this data, the ATSRAC provided the FAA with recommendations for enhancing the safety of these systems.

Even though modern aircraft remain very safe, data analyses show that improvement is needed in meeting the challenges of aging aircraft systems, particularly in the area of wiring systems. In addition to aging wiring systems being an issue, the continued airworthiness of wiring systems through inspection and maintenance is a critical issue as well.

Representatives from the Small Airplane Directorate actively participated as a member of the ATSRAC working groups. It became evident through inspection and maintenance data findings that aging wiring systems are a concern for general aviation airplanes as well as transport category airplanes. Clearly, improvements in addressing the issues of the design, inspection and maintenance of wiring systems of all types of aircraft would improve aviation safety.

FAA management agreed that an effort to develop a consensus standard would improve the safety of the general aviation fleet. As a result, the Small Airplane Directorate initiated a voluntary consensus standard effort to develop standards for general aviation electrical wiring systems and selected ASTM International to administer this effort. The resulting Committee F39 on Normal and Utility Category Airplane Electrical Wiring Systems represents the first step in developing modern standards for general aviation electrical wiring systems while also addressing the growing concern regarding the continued airworthiness of aircraft wiring systems.

Standards Development

The time was right for developing modern standards for general aviation wiring systems. Industry was ready for this effort. Leading manufacturers and trade associations were early participants and they continue to lead the effort. They are committed to the endeavor of enhancing the design and long-term continued airworthiness of electrical wiring systems.

The Small Airplane Directorate is committed to supporting the development of modern acceptable standards for the certification and continued airworthiness of electrical systems installed in civil aircraft. The general aviation aircraft fleet, which represents 90 percent of the civil aviation fleet, is a diverse mixture and has an average age of over 35 years. Developing relevant and modern technical standards for advancing electrical system technologies is critical to the continued safe operation of these aircraft. Continued operational safety of aviation products is the primary goal of the FAA, therefore, it is imperative that product certification is governed by comprehensive technical standards.

To improve on the use of existing standards and guidance such as FAA Advisory Circulars, Committee F39 is developing standards for electrical wiring systems for normal and utility category aircraft. These standards include design, fabrication, modification, repair, documentation, inspection and maintenance procedures and processes. As technology changes and offers even more complex systems, F39 will review and maintain these standards to address the expanding technology requirements.

F39 is committed to using existing guidance and standards as the foundation of the effort. For example, FAA Advisory Circular 43.13-1B, Chapter 11, formed the basic framework for developing the standard. With the addition of new technologies and updated material, the consensus standard effort has successfully incorporated new and expanded information with existing information.

Committee F39 is dedicated to developing international standards that industry and FAA can use to ensure safe aircraft designs for both the certification of new products and the continued airworthiness of mature products. The Small Airplane Directorate considers F39’s continued efforts important in improving aviation safety and in addressing the entire life cycle of small aircraft wiring systems.

Completed processes for inspection, maintenance, repair and alteration of general aviation aircraft electrical wiring systems will be stand-alone standards.

The FAA encourages continued industry participation in F39. Additional information regarding the committee is available at the here. //