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MARPA Files Comments on Propeller PMA Policy

Late last month MARPA filed comments with the FAA on Draft Policy Statement ANE-35.1-01-R1 Parts Manufacturer Approval (PMA) for Propeller Critical Parts and Category 1 Propeller Parts. As we previously explained on this blog, the draft language of the policy would substantially broaden the definition of “propeller critical parts,” thus rendering a significantly larger set parts subject to the requirements of 14 C.F.R. § 35.16 (without regulatory justification), which establishes the requirements for propeller critical parts.  This could create several challenges for manufacturers of propeller PMAs.

MARPA’s comments noted several problems the proposed policy statement would create:

  • A broadened (and unsupported by the Federal Aviation Regulations) definition of “propeller critical part”
  • An undefined requirement for a “Life Management Program” that appears contrary to the Regulations
  • Conflating “Critical” and “Category 1” parts such that they are all held to the same increased requirements
  • Arbitrarily designates certain parts as “critical” without technical justification
  • Could have the inadvertent effect of barring many PMA propeller parts from Europe.

MARPA’s comments addressed each of these issues–and more–and explained why the Draft Policy Statement should be withdrawn or at the very least amended.

MARPA is always working diligently to protect the PMA industry and advance the PMA industry’s interests, both with regulators and TC/PC holders.  Our goal is to support the PMA industry–and especially our members–in every way we can, and make sure the PMA industry continues to grow and thrive. Filing comments like these to push back against potentially harmful policy is one of many things MARPA member dues go to support.

You can read MARPA’s full comments here.

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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.

Bob Cook to Retire from the FAA

Bob Cook from the FAA will be retiring after this week.  You may not know the name but you certainly know his work.

He has been involved in a tremendous amount of rulemaking and policy making efforts at the FAA.  The one that sticks in my mind is 14 C.F.R. 21.137.  Bob was part of the team tasked with coming up with a modern vision of quality assurance.  It would have been very easy to create a subjective rule that was vague and made compliance difficult; instead, 14 C.F.R. 21.137 very clearly establishes objective criteria expected in a modern quality assurance system.

How did  14 C.F.R. 21.137 come into being?  Bob once told me that they put together a wish list of quality system elements, and then he led a chopping block exercise in which they asked for each element (1) what safety value does it provide and (2) does the FAA really need to regulate this element?  This exercise allowed them to remove many elements that were nice to have, but that were not necessary and therefore did not need to be part of the regulation.  The result was a quality assurance regulation that serves as a model for the entire global industry.  It is the sort of regulation that no one complains about – no one thinks it is overbearing and no one thinks it falls short of what it should address.  That is a rare sort of regulation, indeed.  This was the sort of reasonable approach to regulation that we always expected from Bob Cook.

Bob sent an email announcing his retirement.  It read (in part):

To all those that I have worked with over this last 17 years in the FAA and 40+ in the aviation industry:

I will be retiring on June 23rd.  I wish to thank each of you for helping to make my time at the FAA both enjoyable and rewarding.  I have stated many times that this has been the best job I ever had, and I truly meant it.  The managers and the management team I worked for (while being frustrating at times) provided me with every opportunity to learn and progress within the organization.

To those that I had the pleasure of working with on aviation issues I want to thank you for all the time, effort and concern you placed on the continuous improvement of quality within our industry.  Your openness to share quality improvements and working, as an industry, through organizations such as the IAQG, AAQG, AIA, GAMA, and MARPA to establish quality standards and a quality system oversight processes that are used internationally, is one of the greatest achievements of which I had the pleasure to be involved.

* * *

After 40+ years of working in the aviation industry I expect it will be hard for me to just walk away so you may see me commenting on rulemaking as a concerned citizen.  If you do, I hope to see a better response than “Thank you for your interest in aviation safety”.  I will miss working with you on issues that makes our aviation industry the safest and most respected in the world.

* * *

Bob Cook
Very Soon to be a Private Citizen

We will miss his attention to detail, his willingness to listen, and his commitment to safety.

If anyone wants to send Bob a thank-you or goodbye message, then he is still in the office this week, and his email is Robert.cook@faa.gov.

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.

 

 

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 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.

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.