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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.

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.

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.

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.

What Should Be the Minimum Standards that Apply to Any Company that Holds Design Approval?

As many of you know, MARPA has been an active participant in the FAA’s efforts to develop both Design Organization and SMS regulations that would apply to the manufacturing community. This gives our members an exceptional opportunity to influence the regulations so that they will make sense and preserve safety.

The FAA is working on regulations that would require most design approval holders to be Design Organizations, which would be similar to EASA DOAs (under EASA subpart J in Europe).  FAA Engineering Division Manager Dave Hempe will be at the MARPA Annual Conference to talk to companies about the costs and benefits of such a requirement.

The smallest companies (including many PMA companies) could be excepted from those design organization rules.  But even those excepted companies will likely have to met some standard; the lower risk posed by excepted companies would mean that the standards applied to them could be lower.

This raises the question “how much of an organization SHOULD a small company be required to have as a minimum FAA standard?”  We will be looking to the PMA community to help answer this question!

Soon, we will be soliciting volunteers for a limited engagement subcommittee that will be tasked with recommending those minimum standards.  We anticipate that volunteers will be expected to commit to participate in between one and three one-hour-long telephone conferences – there will be no live meetings and no travel required.  The purpose of those calls will be to solicit input about minimum standards that could apply to all design approval applicants and holders (even the smallest ones).

We really are going to need your help on this so please consider donating your time in order to register your opinion about what is reasonable for your business to do.

We will be publishing more details soon, but please contact us if you think you would like to participate!

Help MARPA Understand Your Costs of Regulatory Compliance

MARPA continues to work diligently in support of the FAA’s Part 21 ARC.  One of the ARC working groups is focused specifically on performing a cost benefit analysis of the ARCs proposals.  We previously posted on the blog a request for our members’ input on what data we should be tracking in order to best estimate costs.  Although we have received a handful of responses to date, we still need your feedback to ensure we have an accurate cost assessment as possible!

Our members have reported the following measurable data points

  • Time for FAA review and approval of applications
  • Time of DER review
  • Data package development costs
  • ODA costs
  • Personnel costs to supplement decreased FAA involvement

The data your company is able to measure may be similar, or may be different.  In either case, we want to hear from you to provide a useful and usable data survey.  Remember, at this time we are NOT collecting actual numbers, but merely attempting to determine what data we can reasonably expect to collect in the future to help with our cost benefit analysis.  Future data will be collect anonymously to protect our members’ competitive interests while also guarding against costly regulation.

This information will help us to develop metrics for measuring industry costs of regulatory compliance.  We will then have a baseline to which we will compare the costs and benefits of the ARC’s proposals.  This is industry’s opportunity to provide detailed feedback regarding the costs of FAA regulations.  The FAA will be joining us at the MARPA Conference in October, so it is important that we have investigated and reviewed this data prior to that time.

If you have not yet taken the opportunity to respond with what sort of cost data your company tracks, please take a few minutes and let us know.  This will go a long way to helping us ensure the Part 21 ARC develops sound and cost effective proposals to deliver to the FAA. Email responses to MARPA Associate Counsel Ryan Aggergaard at ryan@washingtonaviaition.com.

Vibration Rule – Still In the Works?

We spoke today with several FAA policy-makers about the Engine Vibration rule change which had been published and then withdrawn in 2012.

This conversation was a follow-up to the FAA publication of a technical amendment that would have required full engine testing for vibration compliance.  The FAA representatives explained that they wanted to explore the reasons for MARPA’s concerns over the rule (the rule had been withdrawn based on MARPA’s objection).

They asked about our concerns with the rule.  They asked about whether a change to the preamble would have been enough to salvage the rule.  We answered that IF their intent was to apply the full engine test requirement to only TC applicants (as FAA employees had indicated in an August 27, 2012 phone conversation) and not to PMA/STC applicants then merely changing the preamble would be insufficient, because the problem lay in the (withdrawn) rule language itself.  We pointed out that the (withdrawn) rule language would have appeared to have required full engine vibration testing.  Component-level testing (which is currently permitted for PMA applicants) would have been available as a supplement to full engine testing (and not as an alternative, as currently permitted by AC 33-83-1).

We asked what the FAA’s goals were with respect to the rule, and explained that MARPA would be happy to work with the FAA to help them meet their safety goals in a way that does not undermine industry’s ability to obtain PMAs.  They responded “We are not sure where we’re going.”

They asked whether the existence of AC 33.83-1 had any impact on MARPA’s concerns and I reminded them that a common rule of regulatory construction is that a rule change that causes a rule to conflict with guidance invalidates the conflicting guidance.  So if the rule had not been withdrawn then we would have been unable to use AC 33.83-1 to the extent it permitted anything less than what the new rule required

They asked about the economic effect of their rule.  I explained that in a static model (of the sort used by federal economists) that it would have had a tremendous effect because it would have made engine PMAs much more expensive to obtain.  I noted that in a dynamic model, the likely real world effect could have been to stop engine PMA applications because it could become economically impractical for PMA applicants to perform full engine vibration testing in lieu of the methods made available by AC 33.83-1 (as opposed to using the reasonable methods currently permitted in the AC).  Neither of these models appear to produce economic results that are favorable for America.

Later in the conversation I reiterated that MARPA would be happy to assist the FAA in crafting language if they could just tell us what their goals are in the rule change exercise.  They explained that “We are not yet prepared to say what our goal is.“  They also explained that they felt the ex parte rules and standards precluded them from disclosing any information about their thoughts or purposes (the ex parte rules do permit the FAA to engage in pre-rulemaking ex parte contacts to obtain technical and economic information).

What does this mean for the PMA Community?  It means that the FAA appears to be working on another change to the vibration rule of 14 C.F.R. 33.83.  It means that they recognize that such changes are potentially controversial and thus they are collecting data to try to improve the next iteration of the rule.  But it also means that the Engine Directorate is as-yet unable to elucidate a cogent rationale for why they would like to change the vibration rule.  This is something we will be looking for in the coming months.

What Does it Cost YOU to Meet FAA Requirements?

As many of you know, MARPA is working on the FAA’s Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC)  that is rewriting the manufacturing rules to address Safety Management and Design Organization elements.  One of the things that the FAA wants to track is the cost-benefit data, to ensure that the project will reflect a positive benefit for the industry (as well as for the FAA).

To this end, we are seeking data about what we should track to estimate costs.  We would appreciate answers to the following questions (note that we are seeking information about categories of costs, and not yet seeking numbers for costs):

  • What costs do you track internally that we could use as a baseline for certification or design costs?
  • What costs go into the certification/approval process?
  • What costs go into Continued Operational Safety?
  • Do you track how much it costs to bring a new article to market?
  • Do you track how much it costs to do the certification/approval piece of bringing a new article to market?
  • Could you estimate a cost per day associated with the certification/approval process (e.g. if we could speed up the process of getting a PMA, could we calculate a benefit based on the time that was saved)?

At this time, WE ARE NOT COLLECTING ANY NUMBERS!!  We are trying to identify what are the right questions to ask.  This information will be used to develop a certification cost survey for the membership, and THEN we will be in a position to ask for numbers.  When we ask for numbers, we will do it in such a way that individual company data will be protected.

[so you should be planning on eventually getting us hard numbers in these general areas]

Please get us your answers ASAP. We will plan on asking for this sort of data again in the August MARPA Supplement but it would be useful to get the initial data by the end of July.

The FAA has asked to use our Conference as an opportunity to collect industry data, so we will be developing data models during the summer in order to support those efforts.  We are hoping to develop metrics for measuring our industry’s costs between now and then, so that by the time of the MARPA Conference in October, we will have a robust model upon which to rely.

FAA Commits to a Regulatory Balance

At the 30th International Aviation Safety Conference, the regulators of the world discussed the balance between harmonized (global) standards and regional flexibility (lack of harmonization that permits national flexibility).

FAA Aircraft Certification Director Dorenda Baker explained that the optimal regulatory structure balances the rigor applied during a certification exercise.  The reason for this is that as rigor increases, cost of certification increases.  She explained that as cost of certification increases, safety can decrease to the extent that certification costs have a chilliing effect on safety innovations.

One example of putting this theory into effect can be found in the way that FAA approves avionics software 

FAA created a system that divided software into four tiered classes for certification purposes.  Baker feels that there is a relation between the avionics that we’re permitted to be certified and the reduction of CFIT (controlled flight into terrain).

Baker explained that “Sometimes you’ve got to get out of the way, for safety.”

With this in mind, the FAA is working on ways to ensure that the airwortness standards reflect performance standards. A part of this effort is removing methods of compliance from the regulations, in order to ensure that the regulations do not limit innovation. Methods of compliance should more properly be published in guidance.

Help Shape the Future of Part 21!

We have written recently on this blog about the important SMS/Part 21 Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) and corresponding Working Groups in which representatives of MARPA are now participating.  The result of this ARC promises to affect each and every manufacturer of PMA in some way or another.  MARPA will therefore be there every step of the way, working to ensure that the interests of PMA community are protected.  But in order to ensure that we guard our members’ interests, we will need your assistance and feedback!  We are therefore asking MARPA members to tracks and share with us the cost of regulatory compliance.

The Regulatory Flexibility Act requires agencies to attempt to fit the burdens of a proposed regulation to the scale of businesses.  This recognizes the fact that the same regulatory burden that may simply be the cost of doing business to a large multinational corporation may be crippling to a small company.  Recognizing the extreme importance of scalability in the promulgation of the new Part 21, one of the four Working Groups is dedicated solely to undertaking a Cost-Benefit Analysis of the proposed regulatory changes.

This is where MARPA member feedback will be of extreme importance.  The Cost-Benefit Analysis Working Group needs data to better understand what the current cost of compliance to small business actually is.  This will function as a baseline from which to determine the benefits and costs of the proposals generated by the other three Working Groups.  As the Working Groups craft the new regulations they will turn to industry to obtain data demonstrating the effects of the proposed changes.

It is vital that MARPA members participate in providing data to the Working Groups as the new proposals are developed and those assumptions tested against hard data.  Hidden costs of compliance with regulations, under-estimations of costs, and over-estimations of benefits have the potential to result in an overly burdensome regulation.  The participation of MARPA members in providing data to the ARC Working Groups will go a long way toward shaping an effective regulation while minimizing the burden on small businesses.

Input from members helps MARPA to more effectively advocate for policy changes that benefit the PMA community.  Responses to requests for information such as this—or for data regarding the Streamlined PMA Process—helps MARPA to focus its resources to optimize benefit to the membership.

MARPA looks forward to the participation of its members in shaping the future of Part 21.  Although the Working Groups have not yet begun to approach industry with requests for data, MARPA would like to get started early.  If your company tracks the cost of regulatory compliance, whether in dollars, personnel, man-hours, paperwork, or any other metric, we want to hear from you.  Your confidentiality is important to us, so MARPA will only report data in the aggregate; no individual data will be released and no company names will be revealed.  You can send this data to MARPA Associate Counsel Ryan Aggergaard at ryan@washingtonaviation.com.  Please also send Ryan an email if you have any questions or would like to start tracking compliance costs.

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