FAA Proposes New Fuel Efficiency Standards for Large Aircraft Flying in the United States

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP

[co-author: Charles Smith]

On June 15, 2022, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a proposed rule that would require large aircraft flying in the United States’ airspace to satisfy enhanced fuel efficiency standards. The proposal, reflecting the Biden-Harris administration’s “whole of government” approach to respond to the threat posed by climate change, would “require more fuel efficiency for new subsonic jet aircraft and large turboprop aircraft that are not yet certified and for new planes manufactured after January 1, 2028.” Some of the aircraft potentially affected by the proposed rule include the next generation Boeing 777, Dreamliner and certain business aircraft such as the Cessna Citation. As published, the proposed rule would not apply to aircraft that currently are in service.

In announcing the proposed rule, the FAA stated that it is an important component of its U.S. Aviation Climate Plan, which “sets out to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from the U.S. aviation sector by 2050.” Secretary Buttigieg stated that the proposed rule “is an important step forward in reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions released by our nation’s airplanes and ultimately reaching President Biden’s ambitious goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.” According to the FAA’s press release, the emission standard included in the proposed rulemaking measures fuel efficiency and consumption against reductions in carbon dioxide. The FAA also indicated that the proposed rule “accommodates a wide variety of fuel efficient measures when manufacturing planes, including improvements to aerodynamics, engine propulsion efficiency and reductions in an aircraft’s empty mass before loading.”

Aviation is increasingly viewed as a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, with civil aircraft being responsible for approximately “ten percent of domestic transportation emissions and three percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.” According to the FAA, the proposed rule is consistent with carbon dioxide emission standards promulgated by the United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization and regulations issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in connection with implementing those standards. Industry observers indicated that the rule is intended to cover both domestic greenhouse gas emissions and to “ensure that American-built aircraft and engines can continue to fly globally.” The proposed rule, which can be found here, will remain open for public comment until August 15, 2022. We intend to monitor comments regarding the proposal and may publish additional commentary as and when developments warrant.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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