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FAA Draft Advisory Circulars Need Your Comment

Several draft FAA Advisory Circulars are currently open for comment of which MARPA members should take note.

Today the FAA’s Engine and Propeller Directorate released draft AC 33.15-3 Parts Manufacturer Approval (PMA) Metallic Part Material Compliance Using Comparative Test and Analysis Method for Turbine Engines or Auxiliary Power Units. This AC is intended to provide guidance to assist PMA applicants in developing tests to demonstrate the equivalence of materials with that of the type design materials.

We will provide a more detailed analysis of this draft AC in the coming days, but want to encourage each of our members to review it and submit comments to the FAA addressing any potential problems you identify–or offering praise if you feel it is a useful document.  MARPA will be offering its own comments, so if you do not wish to file on your own, please feel free to provide us with your thoughts and we will incorporate them into the association’s comments.  These comments are due to the FAA by July 20.

Two other draft ACs are also open for comment and bear review. The first is AC 39-xx Alternative Methods of Compliance. This AC is intended to provide guidance to those applicants seeking approval of an AMOC. This guidance formerly appeared in FAA Order 8110.103A but has since been removed to a stand-alone AC. Comments are due May 30.

The other is AC 23.10 FAA Accepted Means of Compliance Process for 14 CFR Part 23. This AC provides guidance on how to submit applicant proposed means of compliance to the FAA for acceptance by the Administrator in accordance with proposed § 23.10 (which is one section of the current Part 23 proposed rule revision). Comments are due May 13.

Each of these proposed Advisory Circulars should be reviewed for potential effects on the PMA industry. MARPA will be undertaking its own reviews, but we encourage each of our members to do the same, and file such comments as they believe helpful.  All draft materials and FAA contact information can be found at https://www.faa.gov/aircraft/draft_docs/ac/.

If you would like us to incorporate your comments, you should email them to VP  of Government and Industry Affairs Ryan Aggergaard at ryan@washingtonaviation.com

 

FAA Draft Policy Statement on Modification Articles Open for Comment

The FAA has released a Draft Policy Statement related to Order 8110.42D that is directly applicable to the PMA community. PS-AIR-21-1601 – FAA Order 8110.42D, Parts Manufacturer Approval Procedures – Use of Parts Manufacturer Approvals (PMA) for Minor Modifications to Products establishes FAA policy for “the gray area when a modification to a product does not rise to the level of a major change . . .  and the producer of the modification article wishes to sell it in accordance with 14 CFR 21.9.”

The Draft Policy explains that historically there was not a consistent policy for issuing PMAs when the PMA made a modification that did not rise to the level of a major change under the regulations. Confusion existed as to whether a STC was appropriate for a modification article that did not constitute a major change to type design.

The Draft Policy clarifies the FAA’s position that:

PMA is a suitable method to approve an article, and provide for that article’s installation, in cases where the installation would not constitute introduction of a major change in a product’s type design.

The policy goes on to explain that the applicant must be able to identify the change resulting from installation of the article and justify it as not being a major change to the product and have the project ACO’s agreement.

On balance this looks like a positive policy for the PMA industry, clarifying modification PMAs that do not constitute a major change to a product’s type design can be approved through the PMA process and not require a STC. However we would still like to hear from our members to determine if there are any unintended consequences of this policy or ways in which the policy can be made more clear.

Comments on this policy statement are due May 1, 2016, so please email Ryan Aggergaard at ryan@washingtonaviation.com if you have any concerns about this policy or potential effects on the PMA industry.

Compliance with the New Part 21 Rules

As we discussed at the MARPA Annual Conference, Part 21 has been amended in some ways that will impact the PMA community.

The amendments can be found in the October 1 Federal Register.  There are three main amendments that drive change in a PMA company’s production quality system:

  • Change in the compliance statement;
  • Change in supplier management; and
  • Capability for PMA holders to issue 8130-3 tags  (without using designees).

MARPA has drafted compliance guidance that explains what the change are, and provides checklists to aid in compliance with each of the changes that significantly affect the PMA community.

The MARPA compliance guidance will be mailed to MARPA members with the next MARPA Supplement.  if you are a MARPA member and do not receive the MARPA Compliance Guide with the November 25 MARPA Supplement, then please contact the Association.

FAA Effort to Improve Rotorcraft Safety Could Be Opportunity for Manufacturers

A new proposed tasking from the FAA’s Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee (ARAC) on rotorcraft occupant protection may provide great opportunities for manufacturers of certain rotorcraft parts.  The proposed task seeks recommendations on how current occupant protection standards should be made effective for newly manufactured rotorcraft, with a follow-up task asking how to incorporate such protection standards into the existing rotorcraft fleet.

Increasing safety is always the FAA’s number one concern.  Over the past several decades, the FAA and industry have made a focused effort directed at reducing rotorcraft accidents in general, under the theory that a reduction in total accidents would result in a corresponding decrease in serious and fatal accidents.  However, a recent study has indicated that while the total number of accidents has decreased, the number of fatal accidents has not followed a similar downward path.

A major contributing factor to this trend (or lack thereof) has been a slow incorporation of occupant protection mandates into the overall rotorcraft fleet.  Specifically, crash resistant fuel system requirements and requirements related to blunt force trauma protection and dynamic seating, which have been in effect for more than twenty years, have been incorporated into only 16% and 10% of the U.S. fleet, respectively.

Why have these safety standards been so slow in spreading through the U.S. rotorcraft fleet?  The answer is that retroactive laws and regulations are generally frowned upon in our legal system.  Typically, unless Congress specifically authorizes retroactivity, new regulations can only be prospective in nature. The real world effect of this requirement means that the regulations to which a rotorcraft (or aircraft) must adhere are those that were in effect at the time the type design was approved (unless an AD or similar is issued).  In other words, the type design doesn’t have to be continuously updated to keep up with changing regulations.

Even though the regulations relating to crash resistant fuel systems and dynamic seating were issued more than twenty years ago, most of the rotorcraft being manufactured today are being manufactured under type designs that are even older still.  This means that the safety benefits of the crash resistant fuel systems and dynamic seating are not being incorporated in a large part of the fleet.

Recognizing this impediment, the FAA and NTSB both recently recommended implementing a rule that would require crash resistant fuel systems to be installed in newly manufactured rotorcraft (the key wording being newly manufactured rather than newly certificated).  This would make the rule retroactive with respect to the production of new rotorcraft, even if the TC of the rotorcraft was issued prior to the applicable crash resistant fuel system and dynamic seat regulations taking effect.

The working group that considers the proposed tasking will take these issues, and others, into consideration and make recommendations on how these protective standards can be made effective for newly manufactured rotorcraft, regardless of certification date.  The follow-on task would then consider the incorporation of safety improvements into the existing fleet.  This amounts to a significant number of rotorcraft that will be produced and/or retrofit with new equipment.

The recommendations presented by the working group will go a long way toward shaping the way in which the safety standards are implemented.  In the past, these efforts have resulted in OEMs writing rules that effectively gave them a monopoly in the implementation of the safety solution.  If your company manufacturers parts for rotorcraft, this could be a great opportunity to get involved with the working group and help shape the implementation of the safety standards going forward—allowing for the use of PMA and other non-OEM solutions that will drive price competition and improve safety.

Does your company manufacturer rotorcraft parts? Is this an issue MARPA should actively engage in?  Let us know!  We encourage our members who have an interest in this issue to contact the FAA ARAC and get involved.

The 21st Century Model of Certification

I just got off the phone with senior leadership at the FAA and all I can say is “WOW.”

The FAA is talking very seriously about a new model of certification for the aerospace industry focusing on approval of design processes and risk-based oversight in order to better leverage the FAA’s resources to ensure safety of the growing aerospace marketplace.

I shouldn’t be surprised.  The models are there, and they’ve worked.  We’ve sat on Federal Advisory Committees that have made these recommendations to the FAA.  The industry has been talking about this for years.  But sometimes when you talk about projects for too long, you start to lose hope that they will ever come to fruition.

But this idea has the support of the FAA’s senior management and that is what will make the difference.

The new model of certification will likely rely on paradigms like:

  • Safety Management Systems (SMS)
  • A company’s library of FAA-approved or FAA-accepted methods to demonstrate compliance to the regulations
  • FAA Centers of Excellence that can assist with issues that go beyond the approved compliance libraries
  • Self-certification of compliance (following the successful model currently used for issuing TSOA)

Under this new paradigm, a company that specializes in PMAs for landing gear (for example) would have a library of compliance methods – test and procedures that are designed to show compliance to the regulations (including ways to demonstrate true identicality with an existing compliant design).  By following the compliance methods from the library, the company would be able to demonstrate compliance for future landing gear parts.  This would allow the company to more readily develop compliant designs that can be readily PMAed based on the methods that are already known to be sound.

This would involve a major restructuring of how the FAA oversees design approval.  Moving to a TSOA-like self certification should permit small businesses to react very nimbly to market forces and it allows the FAA to more readily focus its resources on real safety issues based on risk assessment.  This paradigm could be supported by FAA Centers of Excellence that would be able top provide support to the design approval community on technical issues.

This paradigm could also impose more responsibility on the design approval applicant.  It would likely be reflected in design systems that would be subject to FAA surveillance.  This would replace the current model in which designs are reviewed.  It would be analogous to the modern approval to production quality systems, in which the FAA approves  system rather than approving each individual part and product that comes out of the system.

For PMA companies, this could help companies bring part to market faster, when those parts fall within the compliance library, because it would limit the FAA’s involvement in projects where compliance can clearly be shown based on known and accepted methods.

We are currently working with the FAA on a presentation (“challenge session“) about this new paradigm; we hope to add this to the program for the 2015 MARPA Conference.

FAA Class on PMAs in Singapore

FAA will conduct a 3-day Parts Manufacturer Approval (PMA), Commercial Parts, and Standard Parts course at the Singapore Aviation Academy, September 28-30, 2015.

The course will be taught by FAA’s expert Robert Sprayberry. The course is a top-level study of the FAA’s approval/acceptance of articles (i.e. PMA process, commercial parts, and standard parts). It will provide instruction on relevant regulations and historical findings as well as include examples and descriptions from industry and FAA perspectives. The class will focus on analysis of relevant advisory circulars and orders.  Additionally this course will provide an overview of the history of the 14 CFR 12.8 and 12.9 for context.

There is still time to register for this course; registration deadline is August 31. For more information contact Diane Migliori @ 202 267-1029 or via email, diane.migliori@faa.gov.

ICA Guidance Now Open For Comment!

The FAA has released for comment two guidance documents pertaining to Instructions for Continued Airworthiness (ICA): Draft FAA Order 8110.54B and Draft Advisory Circular 20-ICA. As many readers of the blog know, MARPA has done, and continues to do, a significant amount of work to ensure that ICA are available and accurate in accordance with the Federal Aviation Regulations.

Draft Order 8110.54B is guidance directed at FAA personnel and persons responsible for administering the requirements for ICA.  Among other changes, the draft reorganizes the Order to reflect material moved to AC 20-ICA (below), and importantly incorporates guidance implementing the FAA’s Policy Statement PS-AIR-21.50.01, Type Design Approval Holder Inappropriate Restrictions on the Use and Availability of Instructions for Continued Airworthiness.  MARPA and the PMA industry were closely involved with, and supportive of the FAA in, the adoption that Policy Statement intended to protect the industry from anti-competitive ICA restrictions.

Draft AC 20-ICA is a new Advisory Circular that removes industry-specific guidance from the internal FAA Order and places it in a stand-alone AC.  This effort is similar to the FAA’s actions in revising Order 8110.42D – Parts Manufacturer Approval Procedures and developing the new AC 21.303-4 – Application For Parts Manufacturer Approval Via Tests and Computations Or Identicality.  Like Draft Order 8110.54B, the draft AC implements the FAA policy on ICA established in the Policy Statement.  The proposed AC provides guidance to design approval holders (DAH) and design approval applicants for developing and distributing ICA.

After a preliminary review these documents appear to offer very positive guidance for the PMA and aviation maintenance industries, and appear in line with the policy positions for which MARPA has advocated for many years.  MARPA will be reviewing both of these documents closely and offering comments and support for these policies to the FAA.  We encourage the PMA industry to review both documents as well.

Comments on both guidance documents must be submitted by October 6, 2015, and may be submitted to the FAA via email to 9-AVS-ICA@faa.gov.  If you have comments or observations that you feel MARPA should include in its comments to the FAA, email them to Ryan Aggergaard at ryan@washingtonaviation.com so the we can include them.

Yes, You CAN Sell FAA-PMA Parts into China!

Yes, China accepts FAA-PMA parts.

The United States and China signed a Bilateral Airworthiness Agreement (BAA) in 1991.  That agreement recognized that each authority (FAA and CAAC) had a system for production and airworthiness approval of civil aeronautical products, and that each system was sufficiently equivalent to the other to permit the authorities to accept certain approval decisions of the other.

The BAA is implemented through a Schedule of Implementation Procedures.  This schedule explains how international aerospace transactions will work.  It is meant to facilitate certain transactions and relationships.
The schedule covers, inter alia, Chinese acceptance of FAA Export Certificates of Airworthiness appliances, parts, and materials for which the FAA is the exporting authority.  The schedule explains that China will accept US export certificates of airworthiness for parts and materials when the FAA certifies that each article:

(a) Conforms to approved design data;
(b) Is properly marked; and
(c) Meets the special requirements of the importing country.

This is typically done through the issue of an FAA 8130-3 tag.

The special import requirements of China must be formally presented to the United States, and then the United States publishes those special import requirements in Advisory Circular (AC) 21-2.  The Chinese special import requirements apply to airframes, engines, propellers, and TSOA articles, but the only special import requirement that applies to FAA-PMA parts is that the part must be accompanied by an 8130-3 tag.  Since the 8130-3 tag is the medium for communicating the compliance, the 8130-3 for a FAA-PMA part can be safely annotated as meeting the special import requirements of China.

The Chinese have clarified in several places that they really mean it when they say that they are accepting PMA parts.

In order to ensure that there is no confusion, appendix D of the Schedule of Implementation Procedures specifies that the term ‘part’ means replacement and modification parts manufactured under any FAA production approval.  The appendix goes on to say that this includes replacement and modification parts manufactured by an FAA-PMA holder!

Some additional provisions are listed in the Schedule of Implementation Procedures , but none of them actually impose any additional obligations on someone who exports a PMA part to China, so long as that part already complies with US regulatory standards.

  • Critical components must have a part number and a serial number (this is already required under FAA Part 45 for FAA-PMA parts); and
  • All PMA parts must be marked with the part number and the manufacturer’s name or trademark (this is also required of all PMA parts under FAA Part 45 marking requirements).

China has also published their own advisory circular on the acceptance of FAA-PMA parts.  The advisory circular clarifies that FAA-PMA parts are acceptable for use on Chinese aircraft and reiterates that the parts should marked according to the requirements of FAA Part 45.

MARPA Air Carrier Committee Seeks Clarification on post-AD PMA Parts

The MARPA Air Carrier Committee, led by Michael Rennick, Delta Air Lines Component Engineering Manager, is hard at work supporting PMA users and MARPA members.  In June, members of the MARPA Air Carrier Committee, including Air Wisconsin, American Airlines, Republic Airways, US Airways, Air Canada, and Delta Air Lines, submitted to the FAA a letter seeking clarification on the issue of PMA parts that are alternates to post modification Airworthiness Directive (AD) related parts.

This clarification is necessary because confusion has sometimes arisen between operators and local regulators over the need for an Alternative Method of Compliance (AMoC) for post-modification AD-related PMA parts.  It is the position of the MARPA Air Carrier Committee that if the PMA is an alternate to an OEM part contained in a post-AD configuration, no such AMoC is required.

When a PMA is issued for a replacement part for a post-modification AD-related OEM part, it is uncommon for the PMA applicant to request an AMoC to the AD, or for the FAA to note the AD on the PMA approval.  This makes some sense because a post-AD PMA part is inherently an alternative method of compliance without being described as one. However, an issue arises because many ADs call out only the modified OEM part as a means of compliance.  Because ADs are technically regulations under Part 39, alternate approvals such as PMAs might not satisfy the regulatory requirement and so an AMoC may be required.

It would be beneficial to both operators and PMA manufacturers to see this change.

The OEM part is the source of the condition giving rise to the AD.  The post-modification part must resolve the condition in order to satisfy the AD. During the PMA approval process for the same part, the AD is also taken into consideration..  In order to receive PMA approval, the subject PMA part must resolve the condition resulting in the AD, just as the post-modification OEM part does.  There should be no need to call out an AMoC for the PMA part related to the AD; the underlying condition that necessitated the AD has changed because the approved PMA part has replaced the post-AD OEM part. The PMA should be a valid terminating action for the AD.

There are limited circumstances in which this reasoning may not apply, but these limited circumstances are not the subject upon which the Air Carrier Committee seeks clarification.  For instance an AMoC may be necessary in a scenario in which an AD applies to a higher level component or assembly. In this scenario the PMA replacement for the OEM part may not address the AD for the higher assembly because it is a replacement at the piece-part level, and thus an AMoC may be necessary for the higher assembly.

Generally, however, an AMoC should be inherent in an approved PMA part and therefore unnecessary as a separate approval.  This is the policy clarification that the Air Carrier Committee seeks in the form of a formal FAA communication.  If an approved PMA part is a replacement for a post-AD OEM part, the FAA’s policy should clearly state that the approved PMA is a terminating action for the AD and that no additional approval or discrete AMoC is required. In the alternative, an AMoC could automatically issue for each post-AD PMA to show compliance.

MARPA greatly appreciates the Air Carrier Committee’s work on this project.  MARPA will be working with the FAA and the Committee to determine whether future ADs will list an approved PMA as a valid terminating action, or whether an automatic AMoC should automatically issue with a PMA to show compliance to the AD, or some other solution is desired.  We will keep our members apprised of these developments.

If you are a MARPA member air carrier and want to get involved with the Air Carrier Committee, please email Katt Brigham at katt@washingtonaviation.com.  If you are not yet a MARPA member but would like to get involved, visit our membership application page.  MARPA membership is free for air carriers!

Edited to clarify that ADs are regulations and identify possible solutions to the issue raised in the Air Carrier Committee’s letter.

New FAA Draft Policy: Structural Certification Criteria for Antennas, Radomes, and Other External Modifications

The FAA has published new draft guidance for public comment. The policy statement identifies acceptable means of compliance for certification of external modifications to Part 25 aircraft. Such modifications can include antennas, radomes, cameras, and external stores.

The draft policy explains that there has been a significant increase in the number of structural certification projects involving external modifications, especially large antenna installations. It provides guidance on selection of certification requirements within the context of the certification basis of the modification. The directions in the policy statement are each linked to existing regulations, so no new regulatory obligations are meant to be imposed.

Comments are due to the FAA by July 6, 2015.

You can email comments to:jan.thor@faa.gov

Comments can also be delivered by mail or hand to:
Federal Aviation Administration
Transport Airplane Directorate
Transport Standards Staff, ANM-110
1601 Lind Avenue SW
Renton, WA 98057

Please send a copy of your comments to MARPA, so that the Trade Association’s response can support your concerns. Please also let the Association know if this is guidance that is important to your business.

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