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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.

MARPA and Other Trade Associations Fight to Prevent FAA From Being Assigned Needless Tasks

Some of you may have heard that there is legislative language that would force the FAA to promulgate unnecessary regulations related to marking of “influencing parts.”  These would be defined as parts that can affect an engine LLP; there is no further refinement that would limit the scope of the term “affect.”

The proposed legislation would require the FAA  to issue regulations for marking these “influencing parts.” Ordinarily, you mark a part because the part marking is perceived to be useful; but it appears that the proposed markings would not be used for anything.  No guidance for what should be marked on new parts is indicated, so one cannot even guess at the purpose that such markings might achieve.

Under the proposal, the FAA would also be required to issue regulations for “post repair marking or identification on an influencing part [to reflect] the drawings and specifications used to gain the repair design approval issued by the Federal Aviation Administration.” What is wrong with this picture:

  • Remember that the description of the work performed is required to be on the approval for return to service and is typically included in the work order as well, so this marking requirement is generally redundant.
  • The FAA has no uniform identification system for drawings and specifications, and drawings and specifications are typically proprietary, so the reference would also be meaningless to third parties in many cases, thus the specific requirment provides no value.
  • Given the fact that hot section parts generally will lose markings due to the conditions inside the engine it appears that this requirement is not calculated to achieve anything useful for such parts.
  • Finally, marking engine parts in a way that will not be rapidly eradicated may require physical marking (like vibra-peening); such marking practices need to be researched for individual parts because of the possibility that they may undermine the strength or integrity of the part (thus wasting resources better spent on protecting safety).  So such marking requirements may actually undermine the safety of aircraft engines!

Perhaps the most important issue here is that anything that seemed good about this proposal already exists in FAA regulations and/or guidance.  The FAA has been diligent on the issues surrounding this proposal, and legislation is not needed.  Legislation of this sort would only serve to divert important FAA resources away from issues that really do affect safety.

Several trade associations have banded together to write Congress about the impracticality of this proposal.  The letter is being transmitted to Congress today.

Special thanks go out to Daniel Fisher, the Vice President of Legislative Affairs for ARSA, who alerted us to this legislative issue and who led the effort to send a letter to Capitol Hill on this issue.

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.

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,
ian.y.won@faa.gov
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.

Draft Policy Concerning § 33.83 Engine Surveys Due Next Week

We previously wrote in this space about a new Draft Policy Statement issued by the FAA concerning the vibration surveys and engine surveys required under section 33.83 of the Federal Aviation Regulations.  The draft guidance attempts to more narrowly address the FAA’s concerns about full engine test for type certificate applicants.

MARPA plans to provide comments on this Draft Policy Statement to the FAA and has sent a draft of our comments to the MARPA Technical Committee for review.  If any of our members wish to review our draft comments to provide their feedback we would love to hear from you.  Please email Ryan Aggergaard at ryan@washingtonaviation.com if there are particular issues in the draft statement you believe should be addressed so that we can incorporate our members’ concerns.

MARPA also encourages our members to file their own comments on the Draft Policy Statement.  Comments are due to the FAA by November 21, 2014.  Comments should be emailed to Dorina Mihail at dorina.mihail@faa.gov. Comments can also be mailed to her at:

Federal Aviation Administration
Engine and Propeller Directorate
Standards Staff, ANW-111
12 New England Executive Park
Burlington, MA 01803

MARPA looks forward to your comments.