The FAA has issued two new PMA guidance documents for comment. One of these is a document affecting engine PMA applications (PS-ANE-33.3-05) and the other is a document affecting propeller PMA applications (PS-ANE-35.15-02). Each of them would require additional internal FAA coordination for certain engine and propeller PMA projects.
Under the new policy, when an Aircraft Certification Office (ACO) accepts an application for a PMA for an engine part or a propeller part, where a failure of that part could result in the total loss of thrust or power, the ACO is required to coordinate the project with the office that manages the type certificate and the Engine and Propeller Directorate. Coordination is accomplished by entering the project into the national certification project notification (CPN) database.
While better management of coordination should be a good thing, the reason for such coordination is to obtain more input from the other offices. There are two possible concerns associated with that additional input that should be addressed but that are not raised in this guidance: (1) decreased FAA efficiency in turning projects, and (2) increased potential for release of sensitive business data.
The guidance asserts that the CPN process should not add burden to the PMA applicant. This does not consider, however, whether the process may add additional lag time in processing the PMA applications. If the certificate management office and the Directorate request additional time to study the project and add their comments, then this could slow down the turn-around-time for reviewing packages. We have been made aware of instances where local offices disagreed with a directorate about a technical matter, and the PMA applicant was the real victim, as the two FAA offices brought the application to a stand-still while they hashed out their differences.
In addition, PMA applications are often considered to reflect sensitive company data, because they reveal the company’s business plan. If a certificate management office starts asking questions about a part, even without revealing which company has filed the PMA application, it could still alert a type certificate holder to the potential for competition and the type certificate holder may take action to protect their market in that part before the PMA part is approved (which would be unfair).
But one positive aspect of such coordination is that the certificate management office or the Directorate may have useful information not readily available elsewhere. For example, they may have service information that helps to show where the original type certificated part was not performing as expected. This information could give the PMA applicant an opportunity to improve the part so that it meets customer expectations.
The FAA has opened these two policies up for comment through March. MARPA members who want MARPA to comment on either of these draft policies should let us know by the end of February.