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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,

FAA Seeks Experts to Develop Airframe Crashworthiness and Ditching Standards

Do you want to serve on a FAA working group that will help the FAA shape regulations affecting safety?  Do you have expertise in composite and other nonmetallic airframe materials?  Can you add to a discussion about airframe crashworthiness?

The FAA has asked the Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee (ARAC) to provide recommendations regarding airframe-level crashworthiness and ditching standards that would be incorporated into the FAA’s regulations.  TYhe group would also prepare advisory materials.

During the development of current airworthiness standards and regulatory guidance, the FAA assumed that airframe structure for transport airplanes would be constructed predominantly of metal, using skin-stringer-frame architecture. Therefore, current regulatory requirements either do not address all of the issues associated with nonmetallic materials, or have criteria that are based on experience with traditionally-configured large metallic airplanes.

With respect to crashworthiness, there is no airframe-level standard for crashworthiness.  Many of the factors that influence airframe performance under crash conditions on terrain also influence airframe performance under ditching conditions. Past studies and investigations have included recommendations for review of certain regulatory requirements and guidance material to identify opportunities for improving survivability during a ditching event; consideration of these recommendations is included in this tasking.

You can find a full discussion of the working group’s task, online.

If you wish to become a member of the Transport Airplane Crashworthiness and Ditching Working Group, you can express that desire by contacting:

Ian Won
Federal Aviation Administration
1601 Lind Avenue SW.
Renton, WA 98055,
phone number 425-227-2145
facsimile number 425-227-1232

Please describe your interest in the task and state the expertise you would bring to the working group. The FAA must receive all requests by July 6, 2015. The ARAC and the FAA will review the requests and advise you whether or not your request is approved.  For MARPA members, if you would like MARPA’s endorsement for such a position, please contact us before the deadline.

FAA Publishes Designee Management Policy for Public Comment – All Manufacturers Need to Review and Comment

Do you rely on a Designated Engineering Representative (DER) to approve data for your business? Do you use DMIRs for issuing 8130-3 tags?  If you do, then you know how critical designees can be to the parts approval process.  Often, though, designees are required by the FAA to do things that the FAA employees themselves are not permitted to do, like require paperwork that is not required by law or regulation (this can be a violation of the Paperwork Reduction Act), or impose standards of conduct that are not required by law or regulation (this can be a violation of the Administrative Procedures Act). When this happens, the designee has no choice but to obey the instructions from the FAA-Advisor … even if they would be illegal if undertaken by the FAA’s employees.

Want to make sure that designees are not used to do things that FAA employees can’t do (by law)?  The be sure to take the time to offer comments to the FAA Designee Management Policy that is now out for comment.  The FAA has issued for public comment a draft change to the guidance document affecting designees.  Although only parts are changed, it is a potential opportunity to comment on the entire document.

The original guidance is called “Order 8000.95, Designee Management Policy.” It was first issued in April of 2014.

This guidance document provides a wide variety of guidance on how to manage FAA designees. It has not and does not appear to cancel FAA Order 8100.8 (Designee Management Handbook), although some of the guidance appears to address some of the same issues as that guidance (failure to cancel 8100.8 might have been an oversight).

As a practical matter, designees (who are the people most directly affected by this guidance) will not be able to write comments that are critical to this guidance. This is because designees can be terminated for cause or without cause, at the discretion of the FAA. So the FAA can terminate a designee for exercising his or her First Amendment freedoms (as long as they come up with any other pretext for the action, including a termination ‘not for cause’). Designees are well aware of this and they regularly self-censor their comments because of the chilling effect that the FAA’s discretionary termination power has had. In some cases, designees have contacted me because they know that I will protect their anonymity.

The real-world issue us that designees rely on their designation from the FAA to ply their trade. If they are terminated (for-cause or not-for-cause) then they cannot simply be a designee for someone else. They need to choose a entirely different career path. So the process for reviewing designee termination is very important. And both the current policy and the draft policy are woefully inadequate, because they offer no standards for review, so the FAA employees are able to rubber stamp any termination decision on review. Honest review depends 100% on the personal integrity of the reviewing personnel – and there is no formal training for the employees who act as reviewers in that process (by comparison, state court judges typically attend judicial training).

The FAA’s failure to have effective standards actually undermines the FAA’s own interests. One example arises in the context of designee termination. The lack of effective standards means that individual FAA employees can cause the termination of a designee for any reason, including a reason that would have been considered to be illegal if it was used to terminate an employee, as long as the party who initiates the termination offers a pretextual reason. There is no formal inquiry into such pretext – it is taken at face value – and the VERY short time period for presenting a defense means that it is tough to be effective in assembling a defense: the full appeal including all supporting evidence must be submitted within 15 days – while the designee is given the charges, he or she has no opportunity to review the FAA’s underlying evidence. In comparison, the appeals panel has 45 days to consider the appeal and then another 15 days to notify the designee of their decision for a total of 60 days. We have seen evidence that FAA inspectors will use this period to gather more evidence to refute the defense and bolster the ‘prosecution’ so clearly the FAA is not bound to any sort of deadline for presenting its own case.

There is plenty that could be improved in the designee management process.

This is a great opportunity to help the FAA to better manage the designee community using effective processes that ensure fairness for everyone. MARPA members should strongly consider reviewing and commenting on this draft guidance.

Comments are dues to the FAA by January 7. Please send comments to MARPA, as well, so we can sure that our comments reflect your concerns.

Comments Due: 01/07/2015
How to Comment: Deliver comments by mail or hand to:
Susan Hill
1625 K Street NW
Suite 300
Washington DC, 20006Email comments to:
Email CommentsFax comments to:
(202) 223-4615, Attn: Susan Hill


My comment on the cancellation of FAA Order 8100.8 failed to take into account FAA Notice 8000.372.  That Notice directs all AIR manufacturing personnel who oversee designees to stop using Order 8100.8 and being using 8000.95 on a schedule.  The schedule reflects the implementation of the Designee Management System (DMS) in those offices.

Under that schedule, all MIDOs with designee management responsibilities should have transitioned to Order 8000.95 during the summer (of 2014).  So Order 8000.95 will have supplanted 8100.8 for MIDOS (but not necessarily for ACOs and FSDOs).  This means that DMIRs and DAR-Fs have transitioned.  But DERs should still be under 8100.8 until they are formally transitioned (at which time they will fall under the instructions of 8000.95).

Special thanks to William Denihan for pointing this out!

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

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!


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