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SBA Repair Station Rule Roundtable

As previously mentioned on this blog, the FAA’s proposed Aviation Repair Station rule is very likely to have noticeable secondary effects on other companies, including PMA parts manufacturers.  On November 5, MARPA and other members of the aviation community, as well as representatives from the FAA, met for a Small Business Administration roundtable to discuss the proposed rule.

The FAA, although not able to take comment at the meeting, offered a presentation on the purpose and intent of the rule and were available to attempt to answer any questions posed by attendees.  The FAA explained that the purpose of the rule is to align FAA regulations with current industry practices and aircraft technology.  The FAA also stated that they believe they have addressed the numerous comments that resulted in the rejection of similar proposed rules in 1999 and 2006.

Industry attendees expressed a number of concerns with the proposed rule.  One concern is that due to the slow nature of the rule-making process, current industry practices have already moved beyond that which is contemplated by the proposed rule. There also appears a risk of creating confusion as the rule introduces inconsistent terms to the regulations.

The rule may also create significant adminstrative burdens.  It would require that each of approximately five thousand repair stations renew their certificates with 24 months of the rule becoming effective.  There is some doubt as to whether the FAA has the resources to process so many renewals in such a limited time frame, particularly faced with the reality that most applications would occur toward the end of the 24-month window.

The rule creates additional administrative burdens on the repair station side, as supervisory personnel will be required to be on hand to oversee work performed, changes to capabilities lists will have to be approved by the FAA or through self-evaluation, and substantial new employee training requirments are implemented.

Additionally, the new “Component Rating” propsed by the rule poses a particular threat to PMA manufacturers.  Repair stations will be expected to maintain a component capabilities list in their operations specifications.  Because of the burdens associated with amending and updating op specs, many repair stations may have difficulties in efficiently updating their components capabilities lists.  This is especially troubling for PMA.  Even though a PMA part is most likely maintained in the exact same way as its OEM corrollary part, a repair station may still be required to call out that specific PMA part number in its op specs in order to perform maintenance.  Given the smaller population of PMA parts, many repair stations may not be willing to go through the op spec amendment process to add the PMA part to their capabilities list.

The cumulative effect of these additional burdens may have the result of decreasing the number of repair stations allowed to repair PMA parts even though they are technically proficient.  Smaller repair stations may also find themselves priced out of business by the addtional financial costs associated with the new administraive burdens.

The FAA will accept public comments on the proposed rule through November 19, 2012. Comments should reference FAA Docket Number “FAA–2006–26408.”

Proposed Repair Station Rule Could Interfere with Repair of PMA Parts

Today, the FAA issued a significant new proposed rule for repair stations.  One of the elements that would be updated is the ratings system for repair stations.The proposed changes could have an unintended effect of limiting the ability of the repair station industry to repair PMA parts.

One significant difference is that FAA is proposing a new “Component” rating that would replace the Radio, Instrument, and Accessory ratings. The proposed “Component” rating would allow repair stations to work components that are not installed on an airframe, powerplant, or propeller (bench work). A repair station with a Component rating would be required to have an Airframe, Powerplant, or Propeller rating to install components or appliances. The FAA expects that such a product-level rating would be limited to only installation and removal. The preamble to the rule states that the FAA expects that Component-rated repair stations would have a list of their components in their operations specifications. In light of the difficulty now faced by some repair stations in amending their operations specifications, keeping the component list in the op specs would likely make it very difficult for a component repair station to add new components to their list of permissible components, which in turn would probably cause many smaller component shops to stagnate as new products come out but the operations specification amendment process limited their ability to add them as capabilities.

For PMA parts, this could raise an interesting difficulty.  Even though most PMA parts are maintained in exactly the same way as the OEM corollary part, a repair station might not be permitted to maintain the PMA part if the part was not on its operations specifications.  Because the population of PMA parts is smaller than the population ofOEM parts, it is reasonable to believe that some repair stations will not go through the op spec amendment process to add a PMA part number to their operations specifications.

This would have the unintended effect of decreasing the repair stations that are legally permitted to repair a PMA part, even though they are technically qualified.

The FAA will accept public comments on the proposed rule through August 20, 2012. Comments should reference FAA Docket Number “FAA–2006–26408.”

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