Archives

FAA

This category contains 168 posts

MARPA Joins Industry Groups Securing Reissuance of FAA Notice 8900.380 Policy

On August 2 MARPA joined a petition signed by 12 other industry groups seeking the extension of FAA Notice 8900.380.  This effort was spearheaded by the Aviation Suppliers Association (“ASA”), the trade association that represents aircraft parts distributors. The policy serves to formalize a repair station’s ability to receive, inspect, and approve for return to service new articles that are not accompanied by an 8130-3 tag. Yesterday, the FAA responded to the petition by agreeing to reissue the policy for another year.

The FAA-EASA Maintenance Annex Guidance revision 6 (“MAG 6”) made the 8130-3 tag a requirement for new parts received into a dual-certificated repair station, even though the 8130-3 tag is not required by the regulations. Not only was this requirement contrary to the actual regulations, it also had the effect of making it difficult for distributors to sell many new parts received from a PAH, and for repair stations to receive new parts released from a PAH, because many PAH’s do not issue 8130-3 tags for new parts (something that is also not required under the regulations).

Notice 8900.380 provided a temporary solution to this issue by ensuring industry knew that repair stations could receive and inspect new parts within their ratings without an 8130-3 tag.  This was particularly important for low-dollar value parts for which obtaining a tag from a designee was economically infeasible.  This solution is expected to be permanently memorialized in MAG 7, but with only weeks before the expiration of the Notice no draft of MAG 7 has yet appeared on the horizon, and so a different solution was required. Notice 8900.380 was scheduled to expire on August 26 before a permanent solution to this tag problem was reached.

In order to support industry the FAA responded to the petition initiated by ASA and signed by MARPA by reissuing the policy in the form of Notice 8900.429.  This notice continues the policy established by Notice 8900.380 for another year, until August 9, 2018.  Hopefully this will give the FAA, EASA, and industry time to develop a permanent solution to the 8130-3 problem created by MAG 6 and memorialize that solution in MAG 7.

MARPA is thankful to ASA for leading this effort, as it allows our members–and the PMA community generally–to continue operating our business in the ways we deem most effective, whether we choose to issue 8130-3 tags with our parts or not. Implementing the optional procedures to issue 8130-3 tags described in 14 C.F.R. § 21.137(o) comes with inherent costs, and so it is valuable to not have that requirement forced onto PMA manufacturers by a de facto requirement arising from MAG 6.

You can read the full Notice 8900.429 here.

2017 MARPA EMEA Conference a Success

This month marked the third annual MARPA EMEA PMA Parts Conference. After successful events in Istanbul (2015) and Madrid (2016), MARPA hosted this year’s conference in Dublin, Republic of Ireland, with the twin objectives of engaging the aircraft leasing community, and making attendance convenient for both MARPA’s manufacturing members and air carrier members.  Building on the success of the previous two years, MARPA was able to bring together more than a dozen different customers and potential customers to meet and network with PMA manufacturers and hear from government representatives and members of industry about the opportunities and benefits of PMA.

One of the primary reasons for selecting Dublin as the site of the 2017 MARPA EMEA Conference was to work to engage the leasing community in discussions about the acceptability and use of PMA on leased aircraft. The use of PMA on leased aircraft is one of the most important issues that members mention to MARPA, and restrictive clauses in lease agreements often create challenges for member operators in implementing and achieving their maintenance program goals, whether driven by cost, efficiency, or reliability.  As leased aircraft continue to expand as percentage of the global fleet, it will become more and more important to work with lessors to ensure PMA remains an option for operators of leased aircraft.

MARPA worked closely with representatives from the International Trade Administration and the U.S. Embassy in Ireland to secure a meeting with members of the leasing community. This initial meeting was hosted by the Charge d’affaires Reece Smyth and was attended by representatives of the ITA, FAA, representatives from each of MARPA’s conference sponsors, and representatives of several leasing companies.  This was a very productive luncheon in which the lessors were able to explain their positions and concerns, and government regulators and MARPA members were able to address and discuss those concerns, as well as describe how and why PMA are beneficial not just to operators, but to the lessors themselves.  (Due the sensitive nature of these discussions, and potential competitive issues, the lessors have asked us to refrain from broadly naming them at this time.)  The challenges of PMA and leased aircraft were not solved by this luncheon, but it was an important step in continuing the conversation and addressing lessor concerns. MARPA hopes that this was just the first of many productive conversations that we will have with the aircraft leasing community.

The MARPA EMEA Conference also provided an opportunity to meet and network with a number of air carriers and MROs, some of whom can’t be seen (or previously haven’t been seen) at the MARPA Annual Conference in the U.S. Attendees included operators such as Aer Lingus, Emirates, Swiftair, and the Dubai Royal Air Wing, among others, as well as MROs like Luthansa Technik and Dublin Aerospace.  The combination of receptions, lunch, and breaks, provided several hours of time to meet with the attendees and begin to develop or further build customer relationships, and for the operators to get new and useful information from manufacturers.

And, as always at a MARPA event, there was a robust agenda featuring presentations from all sides of the industry.  These presentations included the keynote address by Aer Lingus Chief Technical Officer Fergus Wilson, as well as presentations from Stobart Air and Delta Air Lines, in which each discussed the role PMA plays in their operations, how they use PMA now and what they see in the future, and anecdotes about the successful use of PMA in their maintenance programs. Charge d’affaires Reece Smyth also offered remarks on the efforts by the U.S. and Ireland to encourage small businesses, stimulate trade and job creation, and the excellent trade and diplomatic relationship between the U.S. and Ireland.

Manufacturers also offered their insight into the industry, described hows and whys of some of their successes, and made predictions about the direction of PMA.  Finally, speakers from the FAA made presentations about the status of initiatives that could affect the PMA industry, both domestically and internationally, and recapped for attendees the regulatory basis for PMA.

MARPA hopes to build on the success of the past three EMEA Conferences going forward and continue to deliver quality content and networking opportunities to our members domestically and internationally. MARPA also looks forward to seeing everyone in Orlando for the 2017 MARPA Annual Conference for more great speakers, workshops, and business development opportunities.  Register today!

FAA-AIR Transformation Process Continues

Those readers of the MARPA blog who have attended a MARPA Annual Conference in the past two years probably heard the FAA’s David Hempe give a presentation discussing the transformation currently underway at the FAA’s Aircraft Certification Service (AIR) division. As we have previously discussed here and elsewhere, the goal of this transformation is to shift AIR from a compliance-based certification strategy (wherein an applicant makes a showing and the FAA issues a finding on a one-for-one basis) to an oversight-based certification strategy (wherein the FAA focuses more broadly on standards and systems oversight in order to ensure applicants are remaining compliant).  Mr. Hempe’s presentations have provided a great deal of information and insight into this transformation, and MARPA is grateful for his participation and willingness to answer conference attendee questions over the course of the conference.

Obviously, such a transformation will require change by industry; but more importantly the FAA understands that it will also require a culture shift within the agency itself to reflect this change away from a compliance model toward an oversight model.  To that end, the FAA has offered a briefing to applicants and approval holders (those who will be affected by the AIR transformation) to offer an update on where the transition stands and what to expect as AIR reorganizes.

The briefing first notes the benefits of the AIR transformation. These are worth reiterating:

  • Encourage early industry engagement and risk-based monitoring to eliminate later unnecessary FAA involvement
  • Improve consistency and standardization
  • Foster innovation by engaging industry applicants early to understand new concepts and ensure path to compliance
  • Provide agility and adaptability
  • Establish practices for using metrics to determine efficacy

The next step in reorganization implementation will be the first step visible to industry. AIR will begin realigning the organization to shift the existing offices, like ACOs and MIDOs out of the current directorate structure and into alignment with AIR’s functional divisions. For instance, ACOs will all be aligned under the Compliance & Airworthiness Division, while MIDOs will align under the System Oversight Division.  Currently, both ACOs and MIDOs are spread across the Transport Directorate, Small Airplane Directorate, Engine and Propeller Directorate, and Rotorcraft Directorate. This creates significant unnecessary redundancy and confusion, particularly if a company designs and manufactures parts for different categories of products.

After realignment, the Directorate structure will no longer exist.

Because of the nature of the process, existing industry Points of Contact will be retained during realignment to ensure relationships are maintained and contact with appropriate employees is facilitated. This is an important feature because as with every transition there exists the possibility for confusion.

AIR will continue to brief industry on the transition and solicit industry feedback as it progresses. MARPA encourages you to maintain a consistent dialogue with your FAA contacts to let them know about any problems with the transition or implementation that you identify, particularly if it the transition messages don’t seem to be reaching the personnel you deal with regularly. MARPA would also be happy to hear feedback from our members so that we can bring any concerns or positive feedback from you to the FAA. Please feel free to email VP of Government and Industry Affairs Ryan Aggergaard at ryan@washingtonaviation.com if you have feedback on the AIR transformation process.

 

 

DRAFT Materials Advisory Circular – Extension of the Comment Period

Many of our members have been communicating with us about their concerns over the proposed Materials AC. We had previously asked the PMA community to send us their comments and concerns so we could assemble them into a single missive to deliver to the FAA.

We’ve heard from a number of you that the large volume of material and the highly technical nature of the proposed AC has made it slow going to put together your comments.  With this in mind, MARPA asked the FAA last week for a extension of time to file comments on this draft.

We received the answer today, granting that extension.

Dear Mr. Ryan Aggergaard,

This e-mail is in response to your request to grant a 90 day extension to comment on the FAA public draft Advisory Circular 33.15-3, titled “Parts Manufacturer Approval (PMA) Metallic Part Material Compliance Using Comparative Test and Analysis Method for Turbine Engines or Auxiliary Power Units”.

The FAA will consider comments after the comment period has closed if it is possible to do so without incurring expense or delay.

We have determined there will be no incurring expense or delay, and will grant the MARPA members and the MARPA Technical Committee an extension from July 20, 2016, to October 18, 2016.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or concerns.

Sincerely,

Judith Watson

Please do not wait until October to review this AC and develop your comments.  The earlier you can provide your comments and concerns to the FAA (and to MARPA), the better able we will be to address them in a positive and productive way with the FAA.

Challenges Apparent in Reconciling Performance Based Regulations and Emerging Technologies

MARPA had the opportunity this week to attend the 2016 FAA-EASA International Aviation Safety Conference that was held in Washington, DC. The conference provides an opportunity for the regulatory agencies and industry to get together to discuss emerging issues in aviation safety and strengthen the cooperation between both the regulators themselves as well as the regulators and industry.

One notable panel discussed performance-based regulations (PBR) and their development, implementation and oversight as a part of the ongoing safety management adoption. The goal of PBR is essentially to retain the high level requirements and clearly establish what those high-level regulations are trying to achieve, while clearing out more detailed prescriptive regulations. Those detailed regulations would then be replaced by industry consensus standards.

In theory, this should clear the way for innovation by focusing more on ensuring a satisfactory outcome (that complies with the regulations) is the result, rather than focusing on prescriptive compliance-based rules. (How this exactly squares with a safety management system focused on systems and processes rather than the outcome per se is a conversation for another day.)  Performance-based regulations can free the hands of regulated parties and avoid the trap of innovation stagnation in which companies are forced to design or produce in only limited ways in order to comply with the regulations.

Although moving to a PBR approach may be a laudable goal, the next panel demonstrated how challenging it may be for regulators to break free of deeply ingrained compliance-based approaches to oversight.  Relevant to PMA manufacturers, the “fast-moving technologies” panel spent a significant amount of time discussing certification of projects using additive manufacturing techniques.

In theory, a PBR approach would be ideal for approving parts manufactured using emerging technology like additive manufacturing (AM).  If a part can be produced using AM techniques (like 3D printing) that meets all the design requirements (dimensions, material composition, durability, etc) of a part that is traditionally machined, an outcome-focused approach like PBR claims to be should have no problem approving that part. Conversely, if a 3D printed part cannot be made to conform to the approved design, our quality assurance systems reject the part and we go back to the drawing board.

However, it became clear during that panel that we can expect to see more of the same compliance based review of processes in seeking to obtain approval of parts manufactured using emerging technologies like AM.  Of course to borrow from Captain Renault I was shocked, SHOCKED to find that the OEM panelist expressed skepticism that “sub-tier” suppliers or those in the aftermarket were capable of producing approved parts using these methods. But of greater concern was his statement that the regulators might also question that ability.

Part of this concern on the part of the regulators arises from the fact that the regulators themselves do not fully understand technologies like AM yet. The FAA is currently working with industry to determine what controls will need to be in place and what the oversight requirements will be with respect to AM. It will therefore be very important for any PMA manufacturer seeking to use new techniques to manufacture parts to engage the FAA early in the process and demonstrate to the FAA its competence with the technique. This may involve educating the FAA in some cases (and refuting the implications of some larger OEMs that only they know the “special sauce” of new technology).

This much was supported by FAA AIR-1 Dorenda Baker, when she explained that the key to getting approval when relying on new technology is ensuring an understanding on both sides. The FAA needs to be brought into the process very early on. When the FAA is brought in at the last minute, problems and confusion can arise, because what might seem clear to the applicant, who has been working with the technology for months or even years, can seem confusing to the regulator seeing it in action for the first time.  Ms. Baker explained that we don’t want questions being asked for the first time, or engineers trying to understand new processes, at the time of certification. We, as applicants relying on new manufacturing techniques, need to engage the FAA early and often.

Of course this is somewhat inconsistent with a performance-based approach. As we mentioned above, if the goal of PBR is to ensure an outcome that satisfies high-level regulations, it should be less important how we get to the result than that we obtain a satisfactory result. A need on behalf of the regulator to understand fully the processes by which we obtain the result is more consistent with systems oversight (their stated goal) but doesn’t square perfectly with a PBR approach.

Nonetheless, it thus becomes clear that the PMA industry will have to fight this battle of fast moving technology on two fronts: First, we will have to (again) battle against an OEM-driven (mis)perception that only OEMs are capable of understanding and safely applying emerging technologies like additive manufacturing. Second, we will have to work very closely with the regulators to continuously demonstrate our competence and expertise in applying these technologies, and in effectively implementing systems that consistently produce the desired outcome.

There is a lot happening right now; from fundamental shifts in the role regulators play to the way we design and manufacture parts. By frequently engaging with the regulators we are able demonstrate our competence and abilities (simultaneously refuting any implications by competitors to the contrary) and keep the regulators closely engaged so that the certification process moves smoothly and we are able to nimbly adapt to changes as they happen.

MARPA will continue to keep you updated as old regulations change and new regulations emerge.

MARPA Needs Your Comments on the FAA Materials AC

As readers of this blog and attendees at MARPA events know the FAA, specifically the Engine and Propeller Directorate, has been releasing a significant number of PMA-related advisory circulars of late. Currently open for comment is 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 is a highly complex draft advisory circular that has the potential to affect many MARPA members and the PMA industry as a whole.

MARPA plans on submitting comments on this advisory circular, but we need the assistance and expertise of the MARPA community to make sure we identify all the possible issues that may have an adverse effect on the PMA industry.

I know that some of our members have already looked at this and have begun to identify issues.  For those who have not yet had the opportunity, please take the time to review the draft language and identify any issues and possible solutions you see. Please provide any comments you identify to MARPA so that we can include them in our comments that we will submit to the FAA.

The AC is fairly lengthy document, so it may take some time to get through. Because of this complexity, we would like to have all of your comments in well in advance of the July 20, 2016 comment due date. MARPA therefore requests that any comments you identify are provided to us as quickly as possible, and in any case no later than July 8.  This should give us ample time to compile all of your comments into a single comment submission on behalf of the members. It will also give us time to circulate our comments back to both the MARPA Technical Committee and MARPA Board for review.

This is a complex and weighty document, so if you plan on reviewing and submitting comments to MARPA or submitting comments on behalf of your company, we encourage you not to wait until the last minute to review the draft AC.

Please email your comments to VP of Government and Industry Affairs Ryan Aggergaard at ryan@washingtonaviation.com.

 

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.