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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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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