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Aircraft Parts, FAA, PMA, Regulatory, Repair Stations

SBA Repair Station Rule Roundtable

As previously mentioned on this blog, the FAA’s proposed Aviation Repair Station rule is very likely to have noticeable secondary effects on other companies, including PMA parts manufacturers.  On November 5, MARPA and other members of the aviation community, as well as representatives from the FAA, met for a Small Business Administration roundtable to discuss the proposed rule.

The FAA, although not able to take comment at the meeting, offered a presentation on the purpose and intent of the rule and were available to attempt to answer any questions posed by attendees.  The FAA explained that the purpose of the rule is to align FAA regulations with current industry practices and aircraft technology.  The FAA also stated that they believe they have addressed the numerous comments that resulted in the rejection of similar proposed rules in 1999 and 2006.

Industry attendees expressed a number of concerns with the proposed rule.  One concern is that due to the slow nature of the rule-making process, current industry practices have already moved beyond that which is contemplated by the proposed rule. There also appears a risk of creating confusion as the rule introduces inconsistent terms to the regulations.

The rule may also create significant adminstrative burdens.  It would require that each of approximately five thousand repair stations renew their certificates with 24 months of the rule becoming effective.  There is some doubt as to whether the FAA has the resources to process so many renewals in such a limited time frame, particularly faced with the reality that most applications would occur toward the end of the 24-month window.

The rule creates additional administrative burdens on the repair station side, as supervisory personnel will be required to be on hand to oversee work performed, changes to capabilities lists will have to be approved by the FAA or through self-evaluation, and substantial new employee training requirments are implemented.

Additionally, the new “Component Rating” propsed by the rule poses a particular threat to PMA manufacturers.  Repair stations will be expected to maintain a component capabilities list in their operations specifications.  Because of the burdens associated with amending and updating op specs, many repair stations may have difficulties in efficiently updating their components capabilities lists.  This is especially troubling for PMA.  Even though a PMA part is most likely maintained in the exact same way as its OEM corrollary part, a repair station may still be required to call out that specific PMA part number in its op specs in order to perform maintenance.  Given the smaller population of PMA parts, many repair stations may not be willing to go through the op spec amendment process to add the PMA part to their capabilities list.

The cumulative effect of these additional burdens may have the result of decreasing the number of repair stations allowed to repair PMA parts even though they are technically proficient.  Smaller repair stations may also find themselves priced out of business by the addtional financial costs associated with the new administraive burdens.

The FAA will accept public comments on the proposed rule through November 19, 2012. Comments should reference FAA Docket Number “FAA–2006–26408.”

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