The European Aviation Safety Agency has released proposed certification guidelines for Vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft that intends to accommodate the ever-growing number of new aircraft that are being designed and developed worldwide.
In a memo sent out last October, EASA announced their proposed “Special Condition” VTOL certification guidelines. This document contains a framework for the certification of light electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, and is a result of repeated requests to EASA for certification frameworks that more directly apply to the Urban Air Mobility industry. From the special condition notice itself:
“The Agency has received a number of requests for the type certification of vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft, which differ from conventional rotorcraft or fixed-wing aircraft. In the absence of certification specifications for the type certification of this type of product, a complete set of dedicated technical specifications in the form of a special condition for VTOL aircraft has been developed. This special condition addresses the unique characteristics of these products and prescribes airworthiness standards for the issuance of the type certificate, and changes to this type certificate, for a person carrying VTOL aircraft in the small category, with lift/thrust units used to generate powered lift and control.” // EASA
This type certification approach creates a new set of guidelines for manufacturers in the urban aviation category, and also presents a different attitude in certification regiment when compared to agencies such as the FAA have championed. The FAA advocates usage of CFR Part 23, which was updated in late 2017 to reflect a more comprehensive path toward certification of aircraft carrying less than 19 passengers and weighing less than 19,000 lbs.
Why it’s important: EASA has now firmed their plan to utilize specific certification guidelines for VTOL aircraft in the coming years, differing in stance from other regulatory bodies such as the FAA, which has advocated for usage of Part 23 certification of VTOL aircraft. This announcement may cause OEM’s in the UAM space to evaluate which regulatory path is best suited for their specific case. One question that has not yet been answered is how the two agencies intend to honor one another’s certification guidelines (as is currently the case with many large scale commercial certification programs), also known as equivalent certification credit.