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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.

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,

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  If you have comments or observations that you feel MARPA should include in its comments to the FAA, email them to Ryan Aggergaard at 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  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,
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 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 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.

New Guidance: Casting and Proof of Structure

The FAA has released two new advisory circulars that may affect the PMA community.  Both advisory circulars are issued by the Transport Aircraft Directorate and apply to Part 25 aircraft (and parts thereof).

  • Casting Factors, AC 25.621-1: This AC provides guidance for meeting the requirements of 14 C.F.R. 25.621.
    • This regulation imposes limits and restrictions on casting, and also requires a design approval applicant/holder to have control over the operations of a vendor casting facility.
    • The intention of both the regulation and the AC is to drive greater levels of consistency into casting (or to mitigate inconsistencies).
    • Discusses a means of qualifying a casting process


  • Proof of Structure, AC 25.307-1: This AC provides guidance for meeting the requirements of 14 C.F.R. 25.307.
    • This regulation is for the demonstration of compliance for each critical loading condition.
    • The AC provides a list of factors that should be considered in deciding the need for and the extent of testing, including the load levels to be achieved.
    • The AC states that there are four certification approaches to choose from (and provides guidance on each one):
      • Analysis supported by new strength testing of the structure to limit and ultimate load.
      • Analysis validated by previous test evidence and supported with additional limited testing.
      • Analysis supported by previous test evidence.
      • Test only.

We would be interested in hearing from any MARPA member who is affected by one of these new advisory circulars.

When Exporting PMAs to Europe, Be Sure to Use the Right Words on Your 8130-3 Tag

Do your export 8130-3 tags have the right language on them?  If they don’t then you run the risk that they may be rejected in Europe.

The Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement (BASA) between the United States and the European Union specifies that the documentation that accompanies a PMA part bound for the European Union must include specific language in order to be acceptable to the European Union’s airworthiness authority, EASA.

Critical Parts Language on the 8130-3 Tag

The BASA Technical Implementation Procedures (TIP) direct that PMA parts being exported from the United States to the European Union bear appropriate language in block 12 (the remarks block) of the export 8130-3 tag. In order to meet this requirement properly, the export 8130-3 tag must identify the part as falling into one of these three categories (by using the authorized language):

1. For a PMA part which is not a critical component, the remarks block of the 8130-3 should state:

“This PMA part is not a critical component.”

But if the PMA part is a critical component, then there are two options for the language in the remarks block.

2. In the first option for critical components, if the PMA holder also holds an EASA STC design approval which incorporates the PMA part into an EASA certified or validated product, then the language should say:


3. In the second option, if the PMA holder holds a licensing agreement from the TC or STC holder (giving the PMA holder the rights to use the TC/STC design for the PMA parts), then the following statement should be written in the remarks block:

“Produced under licensing agreement from the holder of [INSERT TC or STC NUMBER].”

These options 2 and 3 are the only two options for exporting FAA-PMA critical components from the US to the EU.

Critical Components and the EU Bilateral

The PMA “criticality statement” is something that is requested under the technical implementation procedures (TIPs) that accompany the US-EU bilateral aviation safety agreement (BASA).

Under the US-EU TIP, a “Critical Component” is defined as:

“a part identified as critical by the design approval holder during the product type validation process, or otherwise by the exporting authority. Typically, such components include parts for which a replacement time, inspection interval, or related procedure is specified in the Airworthiness Limitations section or certification maintenance requirements of the manufacturer’s maintenance manual or Instructions for Continued Airworthiness.”

The determination of whether a PMA part is critical is made by the design approval holder (the FAA-PMA holder) and confirmed as part of the FAA approval. Section 4.4(c) of Order 8130.21H states that “The determination of a PMA article’s criticality, as required to be entered in Block 12 when exported, can only be determined by the actual design approval holder (that is, the FAA-PMA holder).” This is important language because certain parties (foreign governments and competitors) have attempted to gainsay the FAA-approved “critical part” decisions of the FAA-PMA holders.

we have heard of DARs who thought that this language meant that only the PMA holder could obtain the export 8130-3 tag.  This is not so.  This language is not meant to prevent a designee issuing an export 8130-3 tag from making a PMA “criticality statement” on the 8130-3 tag that is consistent with the determination of the design approval holder.  Thus, any designee issuing an export 8130-3 tag for any FAA-PMA part may rely on the (PMA) design approval holder’s determination as to whether the PMA part is a critical component.

This critical parts language generally does not appear to apply to most bilateral airworthiness agreements – it is a special nuance of the US-EU Agreement.  Adding the “criticality” language does not hurt the 8130-3 tag (and may be useful if the end-user is not yet known), but the criticality language generally remains unnecessary unless  the part is destined for Europe.

New TCDS Guidance Stresses Avoidance of Anti-Competitive Language

The FAA has released Notice 8110.116, which stresses the importance of writing clear notes in the Type Certificate Data Sheet (TCDS), and of ensuring that those notes are consistent with FAA policy.  This new guidance can be very valuable to everyone in the industry.  The value to TC applicants and holders (who create draft TCDS for FAA adoption) is obvious, but less obvious are the subtle and not-so-subtle admonitions against using the TCDS for anti-competitive effect.

One valuable element of this guidance is that it stresses certain things that should not appear in the TCDS.  For example, in paragraph 6(a)(6), the guidance advises against language that limits work to a scope narrower than permitted by the regulations:

(6) Do not include requirement that is non-regulatory in the notes. For example: “This aircraft shall be maintained in accordance with the BHT-427 Maintenance manual.” This note implies that BHT-427 is the only source for maintaining the aircraft, and conflicts with 14 CFR 43.13(a) which states “Each person performing maintenance . . . shall use methods . . . or other methods acceptable to the administrator.”

This admonition is consistent with FAA guidance that has prohibited language limiting operators options in seeking repairs.  E.g. PS-AIR-21.50-01: Type Design Approval Holder Inappropriate Restrictions on the Use and Availability of Instructions for Continued Airworthiness (March 23, 2012).  In the past, there have been problems with manufacturer’s guidance that seeks to limit operators’ repair options, which in turn has had an adverse effect on independent repair stations who are qualified by the FAA to perform the same repairs.  Other language in the guidance highlights the prohibition against anti-competitive statements by stating:

Avoid language promoting a TC holder or their suppliers as the sole source for maintenance or overhaul.


It is contrary to 14 CFR parts 43 and 21 to include a note that all repairs or modification schemes must be approved by the TC holder prior to FAA approval.

In a similar vein, the guidance also forbids use of notes that could be interpreted as statements of FAA General Policy.  The obvious reason for this is because the TCDS should not be used as a vehicle for establishing FAA policy.  The example that is given is useful in its own right, because this is clearly not a statement of FAA policy, despite the fact that some government prosecutors have tried to promote similar policies:

(8) Avoid notes that can be interpreted as FAA general policy. For example: “Reuse of parts and assemblies that have been involved in an accident is not permitted unless approved by FAA Engineering.”

In subsection 6(a)(10), the FAA advises against the use of brand names, but in subsection (11), the FAA requires that when a specific brand name is used, then the note must also advise of the possibility of using FAA-approved alternatives:

(11) If a specific brand name material needs to be listed, then you must state that an equivalent material is also may be approved. For example: “SOHIO BIOBOR JF biocide additive is approved for use in fuel at a concentration not exceeding 270 PPM. Use of other, equivalent material, may be approved by the FAA.”

Aviation is a competitive industry, but some companies have attempted to use FAA-approved and FAA-acceptable documents as levers to inhibit competition.  The FAA has repeatedly asserted that its job is safety – not competition – and that it will not allow its approvals to be used as independent inhibitors of competition where no safety interest is served.  While the main purpose of this new guidance is to standardize the layout of TCDSs, it also includes important admonitions that should help prevent anti-competitive behavior.


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