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MARPA Files Comments on FAA Geometry AC

MARPA recently filed comments on the FAA Engine and Propeller Directorate’s draft Advisory Circular 33-Geometry, discussing geometry and dimensional considerations for comparative test and analysis for turbine engine and APU replacement parts.  In a previous blog post we observed that AC identified a number dimensional and geometric factors that the FAA expects to be assessed in ensuring the integrity of dimensional characteristics for the purposes of showing similarity.

We requested feedback from our members describing to what extent the FAA’s expectations were reasonable and practicable, and identifying any issues with the proposed guidance on which MARPA should comment. We received several very helpful responses from our members that helped us shape our comments to the proposed AC. Among the issues members identified were:

    •  Possible confusion over availability of existing industry guidance;
    •  Apparent inconsistency with existing FAA guidance;
    •  Inaccurate implications that product testing is the only method available to collect data for lifing methods of life limited parts; and
    •  Issues regarding the specific practice of part selection for selective assembly components.

Feedback from our members is both helpful and valuable to our comments, as it helps us to identify issues that directly affect members’ businesses, and helps us to better focus our resources on those matters that are important to the PMA community.  The result is more detailed and on-point responses to the FAA to better help shape the guidance material that will ultimately be issued.

We greatly appreciate the feedback we received from our members on this Advisory Circular, and we hope that our members will continue to answers our requests for responses as additional guidance and rulemaking documents are issued.  Together we can work with the FAA to develop the best possible guidance for our industry.

Revised Guidance for Rotating Parts (Continued Rotation And Rotor Locking)

The FAA is proposing to issue a revision “B” to its Advisory Circular 33.74/92-1B (Turbine Engine Continued Rotation And Rotor Locking).  This AC provides guidance on how to demonstrate compliance with the continued rotation and rotor locking requirements of 14 C.F.R. §§ 33.74 and 33.92.

Marc Bouthillier of the Engine and Propeller Directorate has said that this revision features some updated references, and clarifications of guidance.  He has said that the FAA’s compliance guidance IS NOT intended to be changed in this revision.

We’d appreciate your insights about whether you think there are any substantive changes.  We’d also appreciate hearing from PMA manufacturers that produce rotating parts, whether you find that the requirements of Advisory Circular 33.74/92-1A (the current version) have been applied to PMA applicants.

In addition, the AC has always included in this AC some requirements that appear to go beyond the strict requirements of the regulations.  Many of these are requirements that seem to have been endorsed as sound practices by engine OEMs.  We would be interested in hearing whether the PMA community finds that any of the extra-regulatory requirements of the AC are imposing a burden on PMA manufacturers.

Comments on this proposal are due to the FAA by September 12, 2014 so we would appreciate it if you could provide your comments to us at MARPA no later than the end of August.  You can also file comments directly with the FAA by emailing them to carlos.fernandes@faa.gov

New Guidance for PMA Via Tests and Computations or Identicality: Forthcoming

Today, the FAA announced the issue of AC 21.3o3-4.  The title of this AC will be “Application for Parts Manufacturer Approval Via Tests and Computations or Identicality.”

As of this time, the AC is not yet available to the public.  When it is available to the public, it is expected to be posted online at this location:

http://www.faa.gov/regulations_policies/advisory_circulars/index.cfm/go/document.information/documentID/1024227

Note: the issue date published on the FAA’s website is March 21, 2014; however the AC is not yet available through the FAA’s online advisory circulars, nor through the Regulatory and Guidance Library (RGL).  The note on the FAA’s website states “This document‘s content is not currently available.”

New FAA PMA Policy Documents have been Issued

In recent weeks the FAA has released final versions of two important pieces of guidance.  FAA Order 8110.42DParts Manufacturer Approval Procedures, which cancels revision C, was published on April 10, and FAA AC 21.303-2Application For Parts Manufacturer Approval Via Tests and Computations Or Identicality, was published on April 7.  Both of these documents have a direct effect on PMA producers.

MARPA submitted comments addressing issues in these guidance documents in September, 2013.  Among the issues MARPA noted was the intended use in Order 8110.42D of the FAA’s Risk Based Resource Targeting Tool (RBRT tool) to prioritize PMA projects.  MARPA observed that the RBRT tool as intended relied on subjective assessments of project risk that could result in unfair treatment of certain PMA projects.  The FAA agreed that the RBRT tool was not quite ready for prime time and has removed it from the Order.  MARPA will remain vigilant, however, as guidance for use of the RBRT tool will be addressed in a future Order.

MARPA also worked with its members to offer comments and feedback to the FAA regarding AC 21.303-2.  This new AC consists primarily of guidance to PMA applicants that formerly appeared in the now-cancelled Order 8110.42C.  MARPA offered comments addressing the expected sample sizes needed for PMA applications based on test and computation, origins of samples, and discretion for establishing sample sizes.  The FAA’s adoption of these comments should better help square the advisory guidance with the realities of industry sampling.

MARPA also commented that references to Order 8110.119 - Streamline Process for Parts Manufacturer Approval (PMA) should be included in both documents to encourage use of the Streamlined PMA process when applicable. We are pleased that the FAA agreed and adopted references to the Order in both guidance documents.  We are hopeful that the inclusion of references to Order 8110.119 in both Order 8110.42D and AC 21.303-2 will further promote ACO acceptance and PMA applicant use of the Streamlined PMA process.

Both of these guidance documents are now active.  Members should familiarize themselves with the guidance, as it will inform the nature of the application process and the relationship with the FAA and your ACOs.  In reviewing the two documents, if you notice anything troubling or that seems out of place, please bring it to our attention so that we can work with the FAA to find a solution.  Send your thoughts on Order 8110.42 revision D and AC 21.303-2 to ryan@washingtonaviation.com.

MARPA Comments on New FAA PMA Policy

In January, we wrote in this space about two new FAA Policy Statement proposals aimed at increasing coordination between FAA offices in the cases of certain engine PMA and propeller PMA applications.  MARPA is always on the lookout for those potential regulations and policies–whether large or small–that could effect our members.  In an effort to best support the industry, MARPA solicits feedback from members and files comments addressing the concerns of the PMA community with the FAA.  MARPA also works to support the FAA in order to provide industry’s perspective and needs in order to help develop the best rules, policy, and guidance possible.

Last week we filed comments on draft policy statements PS-ANE-33.3-05 and PS-ANE-35.15-02. These two statements were substantially similar in content, and therefore raised similar concerns.  The policy statements are intended to create a uniform policy describing the engine and propeller PMA projects for which an ACO is required to use the national certification project notification (CPN) database to alert the Certification Management ACO (CMACO) and Engine and Propeller Directorate (EPD) about the project.  The purpose is to enable the CMACO and EPD to provide relevant input when the PMA application is for a project the failure of which may result in a loss of thrust or power.

MARPA noted several possible issues with the proposed Policy Statements.  First, our comments noted that the policy as proposed could run the risk of burdening PMA applicants by delaying response time, as each FAA office took the opportunity to review the project.  MARPA also noted the risk that differences of opinion between offices could be hashed out using an individual PMA application as the mechanism.  This could also result in undue burden to the applicant.  Finally, MARPA noted that inquiries by FAA offices about certain PMA projects could inadvertently alert TC holders of possible competition in a particular part market, and give that TC holder the opportunity to lock up the market before the PMA package is ever approved; a clear unfair competitive advantage.

Finally, MARPA noted that a certain provision uniquely included in PS-ANE-33.3-05 (the engine-PMA Policy Statement) was needlessly critical of PMAs and potentially harmful to the PMA industry. The sentence in question reads “[f]ailure of some of these engine PMA parts has resulted in unsafe conditions and the issuance of airworthiness directives.”  MARPA explained that this sentence was inappropriate for two reasons.  First, it incorrectly implies that PMA parts are abnormally unsafe and that TC products do not have a history of resulting in ADs.  Second, the sentence in no way advances the purpose of the Policy Statement, which is to establish uniform standards for use of the CPN database.  For these reasons, MARPA recommended the deletion of the sentence.

MARPA will continue to work for its members to advise and cooperate with the FAA in crafting fair and effective policy.  Members comments on these issues are always welcome.

You can read MARPA’s comments in their entirety on the MARPA website under the Government Affairs tab at http://www.pmaparts.org/government/.

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 Proposes Modifications to Airworthiness Policy

The FAA has proposed a number of changes to FAA Order 8130.2 [Airworthiness Certification of Aircraft and Related Products].

Here is the FAA’s explanation of the changes:

103. Explanation of Policy Changes.  This revision—
a. Clarifies the terms “original” and “recurrent,” as related to airworthiness certification or approvals.
b. Provides additional information about program letters included with the application for a special airworthiness certificate and former military aircraft.
c. Incorporates changes to chapter 4, section 10, Certification and Operation of Aircraft Under the Experimental Purpose(s) of Exhibition or Air Racing.
d. Incorporates numerous changes originating from input through the directive feedback system.
e. Incorporates changes to several sections related to the issuance of operating limitations.

Obviously, this FAA listing is not all-inclusive (since it specifies that it made “numerous changes” that are not individually characterized in the summary).  MARPA will review the FAA proposal and will follow-up with any particular issues that we see. In the mean time, please let us know whether you see any issues with the newly-proposed language.

The FAA has asked that comments on this draft be shared with the FAA by February 7, 2014.  Please share YOUR comments with MARPA by January 31 so we can make sure your concerns are reflected in the MARPA comments.

MARPA Comments on FAA PMA Policy Guidance Revisions

Last week MARPA filed comments with the FAA in response to two policy documents that directly affect PMA manufacturers.  As we previously explained on this blog, both of these documents speak directly to the PMA approval process.

Draft revision D to FAA Order 8110.42 Parts Manufacturer Approval Procedures.  Two notable changes made in the revision was the removal of guidance to PMA applicants (released as a stand-alone document as draft AC 21.303-PMA) and the inclusion of a section directing ACOs to apply the FAA Risk Based Resource Targeting (RBRT) tool.  It also made certain technical changes to the Order to update citations and keep up with rule changes.

MARPA observed that the inclusion of RBRT in the Order creates the risk of unequal treatment across—or even within—different offices.  This is because the RBRT tool attempts to create the appearance of objectivity by assigning numerical values to what are essentially subjective evaluations by FAA personnel.  Because the tool offers no metric, rubric, or guidance to aid FAA personnel in assigning values, it is possible for even identical projects to be assigned different risk values based on the subjective assessments of personnel.  The ultimate result is that highly similar projects could be allocated markedly different resources.

Draft Advisory Circular 21.303-PMA updates the FAA guidance to applicants for PMA of articles submitted on the basis of test and computation or identicality without a license agreement.  This guidance is for the most part a recast of the guidance that formerly appeared in Order 8110.42C.  MARPA offered suggestions for improving the guidance related to sample sizes required for test and computation analysis, as well as general comments seeking to clarify the guidance.

In both documents, MARPA commented that the FAA should include a section describing use of the Streamlined PMA application process.

We plan to meet with representatives from the FAA in person to further discuss these comments.  FAA personnel will also be at the MARPA Conference in Las Vegas, October 23-25, and available to discuss PMA guidance and other initiatives.  MARPA will continue to work with the FAA to ensure that the guidance enhances safety while limiting burden to our members and the industry.

You can review MARPA’s comments on draft Order 8110.42D and draft AC 21.303-PMA in their entirety on our website at www.pmaparts.org.

Lubricating Oil Approvals – New FAA Proposed Guidance

The FAA has published for public comment a draft advisory circular: AC 20-24D, Approval of Propulsion Fuels and Lubricating Oils.

Since the 2009 revision to the FAA’s manufacturing regulations, all materials and other articles for aircraft have been required to be approved by the FAA under PMA, TSOA, or PC or to fall into one of the stated exceptions found in 14 C.F.R. 21.9.  This means that lubricating oils are required to be approved or to be manufactured and made available under a standard.  The guidance in 20-24D makes it clear that the SAE standards specify testing standards for lubricating oils but that they are insufficient to reflect a standard for production purposes; and therefore the FAA must approve lubricating oils (e.g. through the TC for original oils, and though other means like STCs for subsequently defined oils).

The guidance appears to be out-of-date relative to the 2009 changes to the FAA’s regulations in light of the fact that it does not address production approval.  Thus, the concerns with the regulations are not necessarily with the proposed revisions, but rather with the failure of the proposed revisions to bring the guidance up to the existing regulatory standard.

The guidance omits any mention of PMAs for oils, and proceeds as if PMAs were unnecessary.  In light of the fact that the FAA has issued PMAs for lubricating oils, this omission seems important. Additionally, as mentioned above, 14 C.F.R. 21.9 now appears to require production approval.

Also, the fact that the FAA has issued PMAs for lubricating oils seems to create an uneven playing field is some participants in the marketplace are not required to obtain PMAs or other production approvals.

The guidance also talks about needing engine manufacturer approval for new lubricating oils.  In light of the fact that some PMA holders for lubricating oil are independent of the engine manufacturer, it would appear that the guidance creates a situation where engine manufacturer approval would become a condition for market entry.  This appears to potentially violate the Sherman Act .

Comments are due to the FAA at the end of September, so please get us YOUR comments by September 16 so we can make sure we address your concerns in the MARPA comments.

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