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Figure 1: The Eight Vision Elements in the Blueprint -
click on a Vision Element to view more detail

From drones, to commercial space, to supersonic flight, aviation as we know it is changing rapidly. These changes present challenges and opportunities to those committed to making aviation safe, both in government and in the private sector. The Aircraft Certification Service (AIR) is undergoing a transformation to become more efficient and effective in this changing environment.

AIR's long-term vision of the transformed system is described in A Blueprint for AIR Transformation. The Blueprint characterizes Transformation in terms of eight interdependent Vision Elements that will collectively advance AIR's safety mission and related outcomes (see Figure 1: The Eight Vision Elements in the Blueprint). This document, the Comprehensive Strategic Plan (CSP), translates that vision into a set of initiatives that will increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the Aircraft Certification Safety System. The initiatives touch every aspect of the system, from regulations and standards to how the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Industry interact.

Intended Uses of the Comprehensive Strategic Plan

This plan provides valuable information to support continued dialogue and inform the efforts of several stakeholders of Transformation.

The CSP will be a tool for:

  • AIR employees, from front line staff to senior executives, to understand how they contribute to our public service mission and to align their work with the goals of Transformation.
  • AIR leadership to communicate strategic priorities to guide the prioritization, planning, and execution of initiatives; coordinate with other FAA lines of business and bilateral partners; and encourage participation by Industry.
  • Industry to inform complementary activities and behaviors that are necessary to reap the benefits of Transformation and provide valuable feedback on the strategy.
  • Congress, the Government Accountability Office, and the Office of Inspector General to understand AIR's strategic priorities and monitor AIR's progress in achieving Transformation outcomes.
  • Foreign Civil Aviation Authorities to understand AIR's strategic priorities and inform how they collaborate with AIR.

The CSP is a living document that will be updated periodically by AIR to report on progress and adjust the strategy.

Our Commitment: Assuring the Safety of Aviation Products

From its early days, the health of the aviation industry has been tied to its safety record. Since its inception, FAA has served as the principal steward of safety in the National Airspace System (NAS) and as a leader in promoting aviation safety abroad. FAA's mission is to provide the safest, most efficient aerospace system in the world. AIR supports this mission by assuring aircraft that operate in the NAS meet safety standards and society's expectations for safety. These expectations vary across the broad range of aviation products, in what is commonly known as the Safety Continuum. AIR establishes the regulations, policy, and supporting guidance that administer the design, production, airworthiness and Continued Operational Safety (COS) of aircraft in accordance with the Safety Continuum. AIR also determines (or finds) compliance to these standards and issues certificates and other approvals accordingly. After issuing certificates, AIR continues to monitor the airworthiness of products in service.

In addition to assuring safety, AIR advances the FAA mission by impacting the efficiency of the Aircraft Certification Safety System. The certification process is among the many factors that affect the time it takes for products to reach market. It can also impact the predictability of product development schedules. These impacts affect the competitiveness of this important sector of the U.S. economy. Consequently, increasing efficiencies in these areas can lead to more safety-enhancing innovations through market forces. Resulting increases in productivity can also improve AIR's ability to accommodate the expected growth and technological innovation in the industry without proportional increases in resources.

Operations in the Transformed Aircraft Certification Safety System

The future Aircraft Certification Safety System will be fundamentally different than it is today. AIR will operate under a systems approach that considers how decisions and information across the product lifecycle impact safety risks. This approach will be supported by rigorous practices to assess risks and provide feedback on the Aircraft Certification Safety System's performance. AIR will assure compliance to regulations by methodically leveraging stakeholders' certification and compliance assurance systems where warranted. This will be enabled by early, collaborative engagement among AIR and our stakeholders and through oversight of applicants' compliance assurance systems.

The level of oversight will be based on AIR's confidence in applicant/holders' management of risk including compliance assurance systems, as determined by a consistent and transparent risk-assessment governance. Where AIR has higher levels of confidence in organizations' systems, organizations will earn greater control over the certification process. Applicants will understand the set of options corresponding to different levels of assessed risk and the benefits of advancing along this maturity spectrum. Both Industry's and AIR's responsibilities for a given path to compliance will be documented for reference and accountability. This philosophy will extend to the international arena, where FAA and foreign Civil Aviation Authorities (CAA) will establish and recognize mutual confidence in their safety systems, reducing the need for technical involvement in validation activities. AIR will assure the compliance of manufacturers' systems by conducting oversight over the product lifecycle. Any product deficiencies discovered through oversight will inform mitigations across the lifecycle. Such product-specific discoveries will also be used to identify and address hazards that may be systemic in nature. Additionally, AIR will promote collaboration among foreign CAAs to develop consistent and globally accepted oversight approaches.

By engaging in dialogue early, AIR and applicants/holders will more efficiently accommodate new products and systems, and identify gaps in existing regulations and policy. This early engagement will consider implications on global operations through close coordination with FAA's Flight Standards Service (Flight Standards) and foreign CAAs. Comprehensive libraries of acceptable means of compliance will be used to streamline certification planning. A more agile and responsive regulatory and policy framework will accommodate innovation through selectively developed performance-based regulations and policy. Regulations and policy will be tailored to society's expectations of safety by aviation product, per the Safety Continuum. The Innovation Center concept will provide a single-entry point for emerging technologies, production methods, and business models into the Aircraft Certification Safety System. It will also provide a forum for FAA and stakeholders to engage on such innovations and explore the need for new regulations and policy. FAA will work with stakeholders to develop consensus standards and foster a collective understanding of the implications of new policy.

These operations will be supported by an AIR workforce that is empowered with the knowledge, tools, and authority to make informed decisions under this systems approach. Employees will collaborate extensively to draw from the expertise across AIR and stakeholders. They will be supported by training and career opportunities that foster growth, promote engagement, and drive the success of Transformation.

Transformation Outcomes

The Transformation strategy is aligned with four Outcomes that collectively define success in terms of impact on the system. The transformed system will:

Decoration Icon for Outcome: Manage operational safety risk across the Safety ContinuumManage operational safety risk across the Safety Continuum
it will maintain and improve safety across the system by establishing confidence in certification and compliance assurance systems and focusing AIR involvement in the areas of highest risk.
Decoration Icon for Outcome: Reduce the time for approval decisionsReduce the time for approval decisions
it will use more efficient methods for making approval decisions.
Decoration Icon for Outcome: Increase the schedule predictability of approval decisionsIncrease the schedule predictability of approval decisions
it will adhere to project time commitment.
Decoration Icon for Outcome: Increase AIR's productivityIncrease AIR's productivity
it will complete more approvals and limit duplication of effort to meet increasing global demand.

AIR expects that any improvements in terms of efficiency or productivity will translate to more effectively managing risk in the Aircraft Certification Safety System. AIR will monitor and manage progress toward these high-level outcomes through a set of performance metrics.

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