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Bill aims to streamline FAA certification process

A bill that could streamline the approval process for new aviation technologies has been introduced in Congress, and Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Minn., is one of its nine bipartisan sponsors.

A bill that could streamline the approval process for new aviation technologies has been introduced in Congress, and Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Minn., is one of its nine bipartisan sponsors.

"This is a great example of Congressman Nolan standing up for the whole industry, not just his district," said Bill King, vice president of business administration for Cirrus Aircraft, headquartered in Duluth.

King said Cirrus enjoys an unusually harmonious relationship with the Federal Aviation Administration and has found its staff members to be very responsive.

But he noted many other companies -- including airplane makers and manufacturers of aircraft components -- don't enjoy such well-established lines of communication with the FAA.

"This could make an enormous difference for other manufacturers and all the suppliers who also have to work within the FAA's rules," King said.

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The bill would require the FAA to speed up proposed reforms to its certification process. If passed, the legislation would require the FAA to have the proposed new rules and processes up and running before the end of 2015.

"The small aviation industry in America has been slowly choking over the past 20 years, and jobs have been lost, due to an outdated, unnecessarily lengthy approval process that increases the price of safety and technology upgrades by up to 10 times," said Nolan, a member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, in a statement issued Monday.

Steve Serfling, chief operating officer of Kestrel Aircraft Co. based in Superior, said the company spent a lengthy 13 months with the FAA "sequencing" the review process for the new airplane it plans to bring to market.

But he characterized Kestrel's overall relationship with the FAA as "very good" nevertheless.

"A lot of people like to malign the FAA, but they perform an important job overseeing the safety of airplane design," Serfling said.

While Serfling said he welcomes any prospective reforms that could improve the FAA's efficiency, he does not consider himself a strong critic of the agency.

Nolan described a more urgent need for change, saying: "Under the current outdated system of regulatory review, new investment is discouraged, the adoption and integration of new technologies is delayed, and safety features that could and should be built into small aircraft are being left on the drawing board."

"This legislation will improve safety, decrease costs and encourage

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private-sector innovation and investment," he predicted.

Peter Passi covers city government for the Duluth News Tribune. He joined the paper in April 2000, initially as a business reporter but has worked a number of beats through the years.
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