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The FAA takes a small step into aviation's giant leap - drafting the guidelines for powered-lift aircraft

In the Golden Age of Flight, it was a notion in only the most futuristic of sci-fi comic books. Now, the FAA is drawing up a playbook to turn concepts like urban air mobility and flying taxis into a regulated reality. The federal agency released a draft last week that will soon be entered into the public register. It looks to add definitions of powered-lift aircraft into the U.S. rulebook for commercial operators. The draft outlines the five types of air carrier operations - commuter, domestic, flag, on-demand and supplemental - to include definitions for not only fixed-wing aircraft and rotorcraft but also powered-lift. The move comes as a number of eVTOL aircraft developers ink deals with traditional airlines as they race toward the certification finish line of the next generation of aviation, with many hoping to take to the sky hauling passengers by mid-decade. RELATED STORIES:Archer unveils new eVTOL aircraft Midnight at open house FAA seeking public feedback on Joby's electric air taxi model JAS4-1 US House passes legislation to fund advanced air mobility infrastructureJoby takes step forward in eVTOL operations with Part 135 FAA certification AIR Unveils Full-Scale eVTOL Prototype at the Kentucky DerbyAmong the changes, the FAA proposes adding the new language to section 110.2 of Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations."This proposed rule would also extend the applicability of certain operating rules to powered-lift, such as the rules that apply to large aircraft operations that are not common carrier operations and rules that apply to commercial air tours," the 98-page draft document states. "The FAA also proposes to update various provisions within 14 CFR part 119 (Certification: Air Carriers and Commercial Operators) to address air carriers' operations of powered-lift. This proposed rule would amend certain aircraft-specific provisions in § 119.1, which outline the applicability of and exceptions from part 119. "This proposed rule would add sight-seeing flights in gliders to the exclusions from part 119. Furthermore, this proposed rule would amend the qualification requirements for personnel in certain management positions for air carriers, to ensure they have appropriate experience in powered-lift operations. This proposed rule would make various technical amendments to part 119 for clarity and revise current FAA practices pertaining to the information included in operations specifications. In addition, the proposed rule will revise certain recordkeeping requirements." Powered-Lift in Air Carrier Operations Title 14 CFR 1.1 defines powered-lift 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." The potential impact of the new definitions could apply to part 121, part 121, part 135 and part 136 operations. The FAA is also proposing a Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR), "Integration of Powered-Lift: Pilot Certification and Operations" (RIN 2120-AL72). It would establish temporary operating and airman certification regulations for powered-lift operations and allow powered-lift flights to begin while FAA gathers data to develop permanent regulations. "The FAA is engaging in a multi-step process of updating the regulations that apply to aircraft that traditionally have not operated under these parts," the draft states. "Overall, the FAA maintains a risk-based approach to the integration of new entrant aircraft into the national airspace system. When operations present a higher level of risk, based on the volume of passengers carried and frequency of operation, the FAA will subject such operations to a regulatory framework designed to mitigate those risks." Once published in the federal register, the public will have 60 days to comment on the FAA proposal.
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