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New Requirements for PMA Holders include Enhanced Supplier Requirements

The FAA is proposing changes to the Part 21 manufacturing rules.  A number of these will impact PMA holders.  It will be important for the PMA community to provide comments to this NPRM.

The proposed changes include:

  • Require each production approval holder to identify an accountable manager who would be responsible for, and have authority over, their production operations and serve as the primary contact with the FAA;
  • Require each production approval holder to provide the FAA with a document describing how its organization will ensure compliance;
  • Permit each production approval holder to issue authorized release documents (8130-3 tags) for aircraft engines, propellers, and articles;
  • Permit production certificate holders to manufacture and install interface components;
  • Require production approval holders to ensure that each supplier-provided product, article, or service conforms to the production approval holder’s requirements;
  • Establish a supplier-reporting process for products, articles, or services that have been released from or provided by the supplier and subsequently found not to conform to the production approval holder’s requirements; and
  • Remove the requirement that fixed-pitch wooden propellers be marked using an approved fireproof method.

With respect to the new permission for PMA holders to issue 8130-3 tags, the FAA confirms that the intent is to permit manufacturers to issue the 8130-3 tags, although the NPRM appears to be missing an explicit authority to issue such a release.  Instead, the NPRM as drafted requires a procedure for managing the 8130-3 tags process; but subpart L continues to require application to the FAA for issue of an 8130-3 tag.  This is something that will need to be changed if the FAA is to successfully implement this provision.

If the proposal becomes a regulation, the rules would include a requirement for supplier control and a parallel requirement for ensuring conformity of supplier products.  This appears to suggest that supplier control must be supplemented with 100% conformity verification of incoming supply; but more importantly it would also mean that non-conforming supplier-provided-parts would represent a regulatory violation even when they are caught in the PMA holder’s incoming inspection!  This seems to be inappropriate.

The proposed rule is scheduled to be issued in tomorrow’s Federal Register.  An advance copy is available online today at https://s3.amazonaws.com/public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2014-04330.pdf.

Does the US Military Draw-Down Pose an Opportunity?

The Administration has announced a plan to draw-down US armed forces to the lowest level since before WWII – this announcement could hold an unseen benefit for the aerospace manufacturing community.

There are a lot of people that could be hurt by this draw-down.  Companies that are supporting the U-2 or the A-10 aircraft will feel the pinch when these aircraft have been grounded.  Companies that support our military in general will feel the reductions in military needs.  The Department of Defense has admitted that this draw-down may require involuntary separations, which will mean that soldiers, sailors and airmen who expected to remain with the military will be cut loose (in an economy with higher-than-average unemployment).

But every challenge represents a corollary opportunity.  The PMA community should be looking at this draw-down as an opportunity to find high-quality employees.

The aviation industry has special needs – and the average unemployed worker-off-the-street often does not have the skill set necessary to be immediately successful in an aviation manufacturing environment.  But servicemen and women do have those skill sets.  They have technical training and they are used to working in controlled-process-oriented environments.  They are used to working within quality systems.  They understand critical safety environments.  They are the sort of people who fit right into an aerospace manufacturing environment.

How many people are we talking about?  From a current level of 522,000, our military would be reduced to between 440,000 and 450,000 by the year 2019.  That is 70,000 to 80,000 extra employees entering the workforce upon separation from the military over the next four or five years.

So now appears to be a good time for our industry to be reaching out to the US military community in order to let them know about the good jobs that are available in the PMA industry.  It is a win for the people separated from the military (who need jobs, and would appreciate the security of knowing there are opportunities), and it is a win for the manufacturing companies that make use of their skill sets.

Note that our new military force levels will be far smaller than the number of people on the U.S. terror watch list, which stood at 875,000 in early 2013.

MARPA members (or others) with ideas about how MARPA can facilitate connections between the military and the manufacturing companies with jobs should contact the Association with your ideas.  It would be great if we could do our part to help ease the military separation transition for a few people!

New Helicopter Rule Could Reflect New/Expanded Business Opportunity for Component Manufacturers

We expect the FAA to publish for new proposed helicopter operations regulations tomorrow (Friday).  The proposed rules could reflect new opportunities for PMA manufacturers.

The proposed rules would require all helicopter air ambulance flights with medical personnel on board to be conducted under part 135 (proposed §§ 135.1, 135.601), thus increasing the population of Part 135 helicopter operations.  The proposed rules would also require some new equipment rotorcraft operated under Part 135 (including those that have just been redefined as 135 operations by the new rule).

The new equipage rules under Part 135 would include:

  • Each Helicopter will be required to be equipped with a radio altimeter (proposed § 135.160);
  • Helicopter operations conducted over water will be required to carry additional safety equipment to assist passengers and crew in the event an accident occurs over water (proposed § 135.168);
  • Helicopter air ambulances must be equipped with helicopter terrain awareness warning systems (HTAWS) (proposed § 135.605);
  • Helicopter air ambulances must be equipped with a flight data monitoring system (proposed § 135.607).

These are operational rule requirements, so they do not apply to rotorcraft operated solely under Part 91 operations rules.

MARPA members who see problems or opportunities with the proposed rule (or who perceive areas where the FAA deserves appreciation for its efforts) should let MARPA know, so that the Association can file comments with the FAA that are consistent with the industry’s needs and desires.

In addition the proposed rule would impose new operational requirements for rotorcraft operated under Part 135, such as:

  • Requiring pilot testing of rotorcraft handling in flat-light, whiteout, and brownout conditions and demonstration of competency in recovery from an inadvertent flight into instrument meteorological conditions (IIMC);
  • Air ambulance operators with 10 or more helicopters will be required to establish operations control centers (OCC) (proposed § 135.619) and will be required to drug-and-alcohol test their operations control specialists;
  • Helicopter air ambulance operators will be required to establish operations manual procedures for conducting FAA-approved preflight risk analyses (proposed § 135.617);
  • Helicopter air ambulance pilots will be required to identify and document the highest obstacle along the planned route (proposed § 135.615);
  • Helicopter air ambulance operators will be required to provide safety briefings or training for helicopter air ambulance medical personnel (proposed § 135.621);
  • Helicopter air ambulance pilots will be required to hold instrument ratings (proposed § 135.603).

MARPA members who support the rotorcraft industry (especially the air ambulance community) may want to let their customers know about this significant rule change, as their customers may wish to comment on the open rulemaking proposal.

Smart Goal Setting is the Key to Management Success, Says Ringger

One of the best classes I attended at the AVM PMA Summit in London last week was focused on management skills for an engineering environment.

George Ringger lead a session focused on the difference between decisions and goals in the manufacturing business environment. Ringger has taught at Embry-Riddle and advised business on manufacturing and continuous airworthiness subjects in both the quality and engineering disciplines, so he has seen what works and he has seen what does not work.

He began by explaining that a goal is something you are trying to achieve, and decisions are the choices we make as we try to meet our goals. Using this simple dichotomy as the basis, he laid out a very-effective system for effective and successful management in the modern aerospace workplace.

Ringer presented a case study in which the management goal was to reduce development costs. The business decided to go from three prototypes to one prototype. This should have saved 66% on the prototype costs, but the prototype failed and this resulted in a 12 week delay in the program while a second prototype was built.

Other examples of poor decisions can include using structural analysis when testing is faster and less expensive (or vice-versa). It is important to use the right approach to PMA development! because the correct choice can vary with the parrts.

In case study number two Ringger discussed a. PMA company that reverse engineered a nose landing gear bushing. In fact, the nose landing gear featured 12 bushings that were identical except for dimensions (particularly the materials were identical). By limiting the analysis to only one bushing, the company missed an opportunity to PMA all 12 of the bushings at the same time.

In case study number three, Ringger discussed a. PMA company that reverse engineered a part that perfectly matched the OEM part. But the customer had issues with premature failures on the OEM part, so the failure to engineer the part from the ground up meant that the PMA manufacturer failed to redesign the part and correct the features leading to customer disappointment. This shows that it is important to know what your customer’s concerns are and to choose a design method they permits you to meet the customer’s needs.

By using effective management, Ringger explained how to overcome limitations in order to develop an internal user-centric system. The purpose of this system is to ensure that your parts designs will meet customer needs and desires. He also discussed strategies for setting SMART goals. He discussed his SMART squared approach to goal setting in order to motivate engineers to make smart decisions and achieve results. Goals should feature these ten qualities:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Assignable
  • Responsible
  • Timely
  • Strong
  • Motivating
  • Actionable
  • Realistic
  • Tangible

In his program, Ringger explains how each of these elements help to ensure that you establish effective goals, make decisions that support your goals, and develop work assignments to support the decisions.

This was one of the best presentations I have seen for managing engineering staff. We have already reached out to Ringger to invite him to speak at the 2014 MARPA Conference in Las Vegas. Everyone who manages a technical staff should make plans to attend his session!

New FAA Policy on Coordination of Engine and Propeller PMAs

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.

FAA Engineering and Production to Merge!

Today’s Federal Register announced that some of the manufacturing policy-makers at FAA Headquarters will merge into a single unit. The engineering division and the production division are currently separated into two different offices, and they will become one office effective February 9.

Today, in addition to the office of the director, there are five different offices/divisions within the FAA’s Aircraft Certification Service:

This change will merge AIR-100 and AIR-200 into a single division, which will be known as the Design, Manufacturing, and Airworthiness Division, and will bear the mail-stop code AIR-100.  The new division will feature five branches:

  • Certification and Procedures Branch (AIR-110)
  • Technical and Administrative Support Branch (AIR-120)
  • Systems and Equipment Standards Branch (AIR-130)
  • Operational Oversight Policy Branch (AIR-140)
  • System Performance and Development Branch (AIR- 150)

The Aircraft Certification Service (AIR) Organizational Design Concept (AODC) has been working for several years on ways to better organize Aircraft Certification.  AODC identified some overlap in certain functions being performed by AIR-100 and AIR-200.  The merger allows the two divisions to reduce some duplication in those administrative functions.

David Hempe, who leads AIR-100 today, will continue to lead the merged division.

FAA to Update the Engine Endurance Testing Rule

This could be your chance to affect the rewrite of an important engine certification rule!  The FAA has asked the Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee (ARAC) to look into engine endurance testing pursuant to 14 C.F.R. 33.87.

An engine endurance test is an accelerated severity test intended to demonstrate a minimum level of engine operability and durability within the approved engine ratings and operating limitations. The test running conditions cover the declared engine rating and operating limitations, but are not intended to precisely simulate the expected in-service operation.

The FAA has found that applicants need to modify their engines in order to meet the testing requirements of section 33.87, but that these modified engines are no longer accurate representations of the type design.  Thus, there is a worry that modern engine technology has progressed to the point where section 33.87 no longer meets its intended function.

Dorina Mihail of the FAA Engine and Propeller Directorate is looking for engine technical experts to serve on the working group examining this rule.  The FAA must receive all requests by February 11, 2014, so if you are interested in having MARPA promote your application to the working group. then please contact us before then.

Parts Approval in Europe Becomes a Reality

For years, PMA parts were a uniquely American product. But recent European events may suggest that others will be following our lead. BAE has been focused on obtaining design approval and production approval to create approved independent replacement parts under the European system.

On January 22, Graham Smith and Phil Beard explained how BAE has been obtaining replacement parts approval user EASA standards. They explained that BAE has been able to get European approvals that are very similar to US PMA approvals.

As with FAA PMA, they start with a significant review of a part in order to determine whether it is feasible to reverse engineer and produce the part. They perform a full reverse engineering operation. They develop their own engineering drawings. Like most modern PMA companies, they take special pains to avoid using OEM data to support their analysis in order to make sure tat they are avoiding misuse of someone else’s intellectual property.

Beard feels that the substantiation of these engineering documents is a little different from the U.S. process. He explained that EASA does not allow BAE to use identicality. Instead they must use positive substantiation of compliance with the airworthiness standards. He said that this generally comes from analysis, understanding of the part’s function, and testing.

As with test and computation PMAs in the US, the substantiation process that BAE uses permits them to fully understand the part, which in turn permits them to remedy reliability problems with the original design or make other improvements desired by the customer. Beard offered an example during his discussion; he commented that if service history has shown evidence of unexpected corrosion, then BAE might change the coating in order to better protect against corrosion.

BAE has made good use of its Design Organisation Approval (DOA) system, which allows BAE to operate under a government-controlled system in order to make findings of compliance up which the government can rely (similar to the ODA system in the United States). Smith and Beard affirmed that this system has been invaluable to their parts approval efforts.

BAE’s initial efforts appear to be largely focused on parts for Regional Jet Aircraft; but they are approved and willing to undertake work on all fixed-wing aircraft types.  This an exciting development for international trade in civil aircraft parts.

Get Ready, Get Set, Go! Foreign 145 Certificates are Back on the Table, as TSA Issues its New Rule.

Many of MARPA’s PMA members also hold repair station certificates, so the entire MARPA community will be interested to know that the decade-long saga that is the Repair Station Security rule is finally coming to a resolution.  The rule is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on Monday.

The repair station security rules are authorized under the repair station security statute (49 U.S.C. 44924). That statute barred the FAA from issuing any new foreign repair station certificates until TSA security audits were completed for existing stations. Now that the rules are out, once TSA has audited all existing repair stations, the FAA may be able to once again start issuing foreign repair station certificates. Of course, this must be balanced against the comments of FAA Deputy Associate Administrator John Hickey who suggested last Spring that the FAA may not have the resources to process the applications when TSA issues its rules.

Throughout the foreign certificate hiatus, we’ve advised MARPA members who are interested in pursuing new foreign repair station certificates to file applications with the FAA in order to secure their place in the queue when the restrictions are lifted.  In private meetings with FAA officials, we’ve been told that the FAA does not intend to strictly follow the first-in-first-out approach to these applications, but companies who desire new foreign repair station certificates ought to start working immediately in order to be able to pursue and support those applications with the FAA.

The final rule contains the following requirements:

  • To Whom Does the Rule Apply?: The regulations apply to repair stations certificated by the FAA under Part 145, except repair stations located on a U.S. or foreign government military base. All repair stations are subject to inspection as provided in the rule and to Security Directives should there be a security need. However, the rule text requires only certain repair stations, discussed below, to carry out security measures on a regular basis.
  • TSA Inspection Authority. Repair stations must allow TSA and other authorized DHS officials to enter, conduct inspections, and view and copy records as needed to carry out TSA’s security-related statutory and regulatory responsibilities. For repair stations not required to carry out security measures on a regular basis (i.e., those repair stations not located on or adjacent to an airport), TSA does not intend to inspect such facilities, except (1) for compliance with security directives issued by TSA and with airport security programs required by TSA (for those repair stations that are included in an airport security program), and (2) to respond to security information provided to TSA by U.S. or foreign government entities.
  • Implementation of Security Measures: The security measures in this rule cover repair stations that are on or adjacent to certain airports. TSA will consider a repair station to be “on airport” if it is on an air operations area (AOA) or security identification display area (SIDA) of an airport covered by an airport security program under 49 C.F.R. part 1542 in the United States, or on the security restricted area any commensurate airport outside the United States regulated by a government entity. TSA will consider a repair station to be adjacent to an airport if there is an access point between the repair station and the airport of sufficient size to allow the movement of large aircraft between the repair station and the area described as “on airport.”
  • What are “Security Measures?”: Repair stations required to implement “security measures’ will be required to (1) designate a point of contact(s) to carry out specified responsibilities; (2) prevent the unauthorized operation of large aircraft capable of flight that are left unattended; (3) verify background information of those individuals who are designated as the TSA point(s) of contact; and (4) verify background information of those individuals who have access to any keys or other means used to prevent the unauthorized operation of large aircraft capable of flight that are left unattended.
  • Security Directives: Repair stations are required to comply with Security Directives (SDs) issued by TSA. We had objected to Security Directives to the extent that they could represent rulemaking activities promulgated in the absence of notice and comment rulemaking procedures. TSA has added language to the final rule to clarify that repair stations may comment on SDs issued by TSA, but TSA has imposed on itself no obligation to respond to such comments. Thus, we remain concerned that Security Directives could be used to promulgate new rules in circumvention of the notice-and-comment requirements of the Administrative Procedures Act.
  • Notification of Deficiencies; Suspension of Certificate and Review Process: The regulations describe the process whereby TSA will notify the repair station and the FAA of a security deficiency identified by TSA and provide an opportunity for the repair station to obtain review of a determination by TSA to suspend its operating certification. Such a suspension would be an immediately-effective suspension that would not be stayed through petition for review (note that 49 U.S.C. 44924(c) already requires the FAA to suspend or revoke a certificate upon the advice of TSA). This could give TSA tremendous power to impose interpretations of their standards that may be beyond the published scope of the rule, and the repair station may be largely powerless to seek review of those standards, because the only practical way to seek review is to be accept suspension during the entire period of the review process (TSA is allowed to grant itself an extension so the time limits on TSA action may be meaningless). TSA would perform an internal review of the petition for review and would create the record but then the matter would be subject to review by a Court of Appeals.
  • Immediate Risk to Security; Revocation of Certificate and Review Process: The regulations specify that when TSA determines a repair station poses an immediate risk to security, TSA will notify the repair station and the FAA that the certificate must be revoked. The regulations also provide the process for the repair station to obtain review of such a determination. Many of the same concerns regarding suspension apply to the revocation process as well.

The new rule can be found online at http://origin.library.constantcontact.com/download/get/file/1102873717486-941/TSA+Security+Rule+Published.pdf.

MARPA Seeks Your Input as We Work to Improve the Manufacturing Reporting Requirements

The PMA industry has an opportunity to affect the FAA reporting rules for manufacturers!

Design approval holders are required to report certain occurrences to the FAA under 14 C.F.R. 21.3.  That rule requires reporting to the FAA of any failure, malfunction, or defect in any product or article that could lead to (or that results from) any occurrence on the FAA’s list of occurrences found in section 21.3(c).

The current rule was originally designed to provide the FAA with information that the FAA needs in order to be able to take appropriate mandatory safety actions, like issue Airworthiness Directives (see Reporting Requirements for Manufacturers; Failures, Malfunctions and Defects, 35 Fed. Reg. 3154 (February 18, 1969)).  But the rule has been accused of being both overbroad (it requires reporting of occurrences that would never be used by the FAA in relation to mandatory action) and under-inclusive (it also fails to require reporting of unlisted occurrences – and some unlisted occurrences could be safety issues about which the FAA ought to be receiving reports).

The FAA’s Part 21 Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) will be proposing sweeping changes to the FAAAA’s manufacturing rules, including changes that implement design organizations (comparable to the European DOA Part 21 subpart J regulations) as well as changes that would more clearly implement Safety Management Systems (SMS) requirements for manufacturers.  Part of this process is expected to include changes to 14 C.F.R. 21.3 in order to correct some of the existing issues, better synchronize the data requirements with the new SMS obligations, and make the rule more responsive to the FAA’s evolving data needs.

The sub-team working on 21.3 kicked off their first meeting yesterday.  The group highlighted the belief that the current 21.3 too often requires reporting of occurrences with low associated risk, and this can mask the higher risk occurrences in a way that undermines safety.  They also discussed high risk occurrences that may not meet the 21.3 list criteria and therefore may not be reported to the FAA.  As a consequence, the group discussed two different options – one was changing the list and the other was removing the list entirely and replacing it with a reporting criterion that would more accurately influence reporting to the sort of reports that are most useful to the FAA in pursuing its safety mission.  The argument in favor of the latter option was that today’s aircraft design and safety management practices have evolved such that the 21.3 list of occurrences is no longer the most efficient way to describe reportable items.  

MARPA is an active part of this group.  If you have thoughts about 21.3, please share them with your trade association, so we can make sure your good ideas are considered!  This can include examples of how you have implemented reporting in your facility, examples showing when 21.3(c) is too broad or when it is too narrow, and thoughts about the best way to improve the reporting regulation.

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