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Inappropriate Restrictions on the Use and Availability of ICAs

Some of you may be wondering where to find the FAA’s policy memo on design approval holder restrictions on ICA availability.  Older MARPA links to the original position of that guidance are no longer valid because it has been moved.  But it is still available if you know where to look!

Many MARPA members look for this policy memo because it clarifies that anti-competitive language in ICAs (restricting use of PMAs or third party repairs) is unacceptable to the FAA:

While not exhaustive, the FAA finds the following practices of using restrictive language in the ICA or through restrictive access or use agreements unacceptable under the provisions of 14 CFR §21.50(b) and related ICA airworthiness requirements:

1) Requiring the owner/operator to only install DAH-produced or authorized replacement parts, articles, appliances, or materials.
2) Requiring that alterations or repairs must be provided or otherwise authorized by the DAH.
3) Requiring the use of only maintenance providers or other persons authorized by the DAH to implement the ICA.
4) Establishing, or attempting to establish, any restriction on the owner/operator to disclose or provide the ICA to persons authorized by the FAA to implement the ICA.

The guidance has found a permanent home in the FAA Regulatory and Guidance Library.  A copy of that guidance is also available on the MARPA website.

New TCDS Guidance Stresses Avoidance of Anti-Competitive Language

The FAA has released Notice 8110.116, which stresses the importance of writing clear notes in the Type Certificate Data Sheet (TCDS), and of ensuring that those notes are consistent with FAA policy.  This new guidance can be very valuable to everyone in the industry.  The value to TC applicants and holders (who create draft TCDS for FAA adoption) is obvious, but less obvious are the subtle and not-so-subtle admonitions against using the TCDS for anti-competitive effect.

One valuable element of this guidance is that it stresses certain things that should not appear in the TCDS.  For example, in paragraph 6(a)(6), the guidance advises against language that limits work to a scope narrower than permitted by the regulations:

(6) Do not include requirement that is non-regulatory in the notes. For example: “This aircraft shall be maintained in accordance with the BHT-427 Maintenance manual.” This note implies that BHT-427 is the only source for maintaining the aircraft, and conflicts with 14 CFR 43.13(a) which states “Each person performing maintenance . . . shall use methods . . . or other methods acceptable to the administrator.”

This admonition is consistent with FAA guidance that has prohibited language limiting operators options in seeking repairs.  E.g. PS-AIR-21.50-01: Type Design Approval Holder Inappropriate Restrictions on the Use and Availability of Instructions for Continued Airworthiness (March 23, 2012).  In the past, there have been problems with manufacturer’s guidance that seeks to limit operators’ repair options, which in turn has had an adverse effect on independent repair stations who are qualified by the FAA to perform the same repairs.  Other language in the guidance highlights the prohibition against anti-competitive statements by stating:

Avoid language promoting a TC holder or their suppliers as the sole source for maintenance or overhaul.

and

It is contrary to 14 CFR parts 43 and 21 to include a note that all repairs or modification schemes must be approved by the TC holder prior to FAA approval.

In a similar vein, the guidance also forbids use of notes that could be interpreted as statements of FAA General Policy.  The obvious reason for this is because the TCDS should not be used as a vehicle for establishing FAA policy.  The example that is given is useful in its own right, because this is clearly not a statement of FAA policy, despite the fact that some government prosecutors have tried to promote similar policies:

(8) Avoid notes that can be interpreted as FAA general policy. For example: “Reuse of parts and assemblies that have been involved in an accident is not permitted unless approved by FAA Engineering.”

In subsection 6(a)(10), the FAA advises against the use of brand names, but in subsection (11), the FAA requires that when a specific brand name is used, then the note must also advise of the possibility of using FAA-approved alternatives:

(11) If a specific brand name material needs to be listed, then you must state that an equivalent material is also may be approved. For example: “SOHIO BIOBOR JF biocide additive is approved for use in fuel at a concentration not exceeding 270 PPM. Use of other, equivalent material, may be approved by the FAA.”

Aviation is a competitive industry, but some companies have attempted to use FAA-approved and FAA-acceptable documents as levers to inhibit competition.  The FAA has repeatedly asserted that its job is safety – not competition – and that it will not allow its approvals to be used as independent inhibitors of competition where no safety interest is served.  While the main purpose of this new guidance is to standardize the layout of TCDSs, it also includes important admonitions that should help prevent anti-competitive behavior.

MARPA and FAA Talk Policy

MARPA had a very good meeting today with Mark Bouyer and Ann Azevedo of the FAA’s Engine and Propeller Directorate (EPD).

The focus of the meeting was status on EPD policy that may affect PMA manufacturers.

Azevedo explained that she has responded to the comments on the Statistics Advisory Circular (AC), and hopes to have the final draft of that guidance available to the public by September.   The Statistics AC is meant to address FAA concerns that have been recognized in practice, such as misusing statistical methods to show equivalence, and underestimating the appropriate sample sizes.

Bouyer expects the Materials AC to go out for public comment this month.  The Materials AC will identify the essential data that is necessary when a PMA applicant is trying to replace the material used in the type design.  MARPA members should watch for this one, and be prepared to offer their comments.

The FAA had published the Geometry AC for comment.  This AC is meant to enhance awareness of how reverse engineering can introduce dimensional differences in replacement parts.  MARPA Board members have expressed that the draft of this proposed guidance appeared to be very helpful to the industy.

The Burner Rig AC, which was also previously out for comment, is expected to be issued by September. It is expected to provide a method for establishing functional equivalence for certain degradation modes in parts such as oxidation, hot corrosion, erosion, etc. The AC is expected to identify existing technology as a means of compliance.

Finally, the FAA is internally reviewing AC 33.8 with a plan to update and clarify the AC. The updates are intended to make the AC easier to use.

The FAA has been very active and diligent in preparing guidance.  In the immediate future (before the Conference), MARPA members should expect to see the release version of the Statistics AC and the Burner Rig AC, and they should expect to see the Materials AC go out for comment.

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.

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