repair station

This tag is associated with 9 posts

MARPA Files Papers with the FAA on Proposed Repair Station Rule Changes

MARPA has filed comments in response to the FAA Notice of Proposed Rulemaking concerning repair stations and their ratings.  Although the ratings proposal was the centerpiece of this proposed rule, many of the proposals that caused the most concern were those unrelated to the ratings element of the proposal.

This is a proposed rule that could have a significant effect on the MARPA Community.  Some of the regulatory proposals, for example, could inhibit PMA growth if they are fully implemented.

Issues addressed by the wide-ranging comments from MARPA included:

  • Recertification
  • Certificate Surrender
  • Asset Sale
  • Ratings
  • Capabilities Lists in the Operations Specifications
  • Removing Operations Specifications from the Certificate
  • Capabilities Lists
  • Quality Systems
  • Appropriate Equipment and Tools
  • Permanent Blacklisting From the Industry under § 1051(e)
  • Entitlement to Certificate under § 1053(a)
  • Change to Part 43 Appendix B

A complete set of the MARPA Comments can be found on the MARPA website.

SBA Repair Station Rule Roundtable

As previously mentioned on this blog, the FAA’s proposed Aviation Repair Station rule is very likely to have noticeable secondary effects on other companies, including PMA parts manufacturers.  On November 5, MARPA and other members of the aviation community, as well as representatives from the FAA, met for a Small Business Administration roundtable to discuss the proposed rule.

The FAA, although not able to take comment at the meeting, offered a presentation on the purpose and intent of the rule and were available to attempt to answer any questions posed by attendees.  The FAA explained that the purpose of the rule is to align FAA regulations with current industry practices and aircraft technology.  The FAA also stated that they believe they have addressed the numerous comments that resulted in the rejection of similar proposed rules in 1999 and 2006.

Industry attendees expressed a number of concerns with the proposed rule.  One concern is that due to the slow nature of the rule-making process, current industry practices have already moved beyond that which is contemplated by the proposed rule. There also appears a risk of creating confusion as the rule introduces inconsistent terms to the regulations.

The rule may also create significant adminstrative burdens.  It would require that each of approximately five thousand repair stations renew their certificates with 24 months of the rule becoming effective.  There is some doubt as to whether the FAA has the resources to process so many renewals in such a limited time frame, particularly faced with the reality that most applications would occur toward the end of the 24-month window.

The rule creates additional administrative burdens on the repair station side, as supervisory personnel will be required to be on hand to oversee work performed, changes to capabilities lists will have to be approved by the FAA or through self-evaluation, and substantial new employee training requirments are implemented.

Additionally, the new “Component Rating” propsed by the rule poses a particular threat to PMA manufacturers.  Repair stations will be expected to maintain a component capabilities list in their operations specifications.  Because of the burdens associated with amending and updating op specs, many repair stations may have difficulties in efficiently updating their components capabilities lists.  This is especially troubling for PMA.  Even though a PMA part is most likely maintained in the exact same way as its OEM corrollary part, a repair station may still be required to call out that specific PMA part number in its op specs in order to perform maintenance.  Given the smaller population of PMA parts, many repair stations may not be willing to go through the op spec amendment process to add the PMA part to their capabilities list.

The cumulative effect of these additional burdens may have the result of decreasing the number of repair stations allowed to repair PMA parts even though they are technically proficient.  Smaller repair stations may also find themselves priced out of business by the addtional financial costs associated with the new administraive burdens.

The FAA will accept public comments on the proposed rule through November 19, 2012. Comments should reference FAA Docket Number “FAA–2006–26408.”

SBA Repair Station Meeting Rescheduled

The Small Business Administration roundtable to discuss the FAA’s proposed Aviation Repair Station Rule – postponed due to the effects of Hurricane Sandy – has been rescheduled for Monday, November 5, 2012, from 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

The proposed rule, which the FAA claims is necessary to keep pace with current industry standards and practices, is expected to have a secondary effect on repair station customers and business partners. This includes PMA part manufacturers.  The SBA has recognized that there is significant small business interested in the proposed rule, and will typically write and file comments in response to industry concerns.

Those interested in attending the roundtable should RSVP to Bruce Lundegren via email.  A dial in conference call option may also be available with advanced request.  If you wish to dial in, contact Bruce Lundegren so that SBA can make the appropriate arrangements.

SBA Contact Information:

Bruce E. Lundegren, Assistant Chief Counsel, SBA Office of Advocacy
U.S. Small Business Administration
409 3rd St. SW, Washington, DC 20416
tel: (202) 205-6144

SBA Repair Station Meeting Postponed!

The Small Business Administration’s small business roundtable to discuss the FAA’s proposed Aviation Repair Station rule has been postponed due to the severe weather effects of Hurricane Sandy.  The meeting will be rescheduled in the next couple of days.

The FAA’s proposed rule would revise the system of ratings, repair station certification requirements, the regulations on repair stations providing maintenance for air carriers, and even the way that repair stations record maintenance.  The rule is expected to have a secondary affect on repair station customers and business partners, including PMA manufacturers.

The SBA has recognized the potential effects of the rule changes on small businesses and originally had scheduled a roundtable meeting for tomorrow to discuss the changes. Typically, the SBA will file comments to address industry concerns.  The roundtable is an excellent opportunity to make your concerns heard.  MARPA also plans to file comments on the Aviation Repair Station rule.

The MARPA blog has previously addressed the proposed rule and will post an update when the SBA meeting is rescheduled.  Those interested in attending the rescheduled roundtable should RSVP to Bruce Lundgren via email.  A conference call option is usually available upon request.  If you wish to dial in, contact Bruce Lundgren in advance so that SBA can make the appropriate arrangements (but wait until after the Hurricane has passed and the Federal Government is open again).

SBA Contact Information:

Bruce E. Lundegren, Assistant Chief Counsel, SBA Office of Advocacy
U.S. Small Business Administration
409 3rd St. SW, Washington, DC 20416
tel: (202) 205-6144

Proposed Repair Station Rule Could Interfere with Repair of PMA Parts

Today, the FAA issued a significant new proposed rule for repair stations.  One of the elements that would be updated is the ratings system for repair stations.The proposed changes could have an unintended effect of limiting the ability of the repair station industry to repair PMA parts.

One significant difference is that FAA is proposing a new “Component” rating that would replace the Radio, Instrument, and Accessory ratings. The proposed “Component” rating would allow repair stations to work components that are not installed on an airframe, powerplant, or propeller (bench work). A repair station with a Component rating would be required to have an Airframe, Powerplant, or Propeller rating to install components or appliances. The FAA expects that such a product-level rating would be limited to only installation and removal. The preamble to the rule states that the FAA expects that Component-rated repair stations would have a list of their components in their operations specifications. In light of the difficulty now faced by some repair stations in amending their operations specifications, keeping the component list in the op specs would likely make it very difficult for a component repair station to add new components to their list of permissible components, which in turn would probably cause many smaller component shops to stagnate as new products come out but the operations specification amendment process limited their ability to add them as capabilities.

For PMA parts, this could raise an interesting difficulty.  Even though most PMA parts are maintained in exactly the same way as the OEM corollary part, a repair station might not be permitted to maintain the PMA part if the part was not on its operations specifications.  Because the population of PMA parts is smaller than the population ofOEM parts, it is reasonable to believe that some repair stations will not go through the op spec amendment process to add a PMA part number to their operations specifications.

This would have the unintended effect of decreasing the repair stations that are legally permitted to repair a PMA part, even though they are technically qualified.

The FAA will accept public comments on the proposed rule through August 20, 2012. Comments should reference FAA Docket Number “FAA–2006–26408.”

FAA Drug Testing Under Fire

Many of MARPA’s members are also repair stations, and those that are not generally have repair station customers, so repair station issues can be important to our members.

Many of you may know that the DC Court of Appeals ruled in 2007 that the FAA had failed to provide an adequate Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (RFA) when it extended the air carrier drug testing rules to all tiers of repair stations.  That Court ordered the FAA to publish an appropriate  RFA addressing the impact on repair stations.

Rather than publish the RFA, though the FAA simply recodified the drug-and-alcohol-testing rules (which had been published as appendices to the air carrier operating rules).  The new drug testing rules were republished as a new Part 120 and that part was made explicitly applicable to repair stations who implement a drug testing program.

Recently, the industry sued the FAA, petitioning for a writ of mandamus to compel the FAA to perform the RFA that was ordered in 2007.  On March2, the Court of appeals issued an Order to Show Cause against the FAA.  The Order requires the FAA to explain why the drug-and-alcohol testing rules that apply to repair stations should not be suspended while the Court awaits the RFA.  If the FAA fails to offer an adequate explanation, then it is possible that the Court may suspend application of the drug-and-alcohol-testing rules as they apply to maintenance contractors (including repair stations).

This “Show Cause Order” is an interim order, so it is not intended to be a final disposition; but it certainly raises a lot of questions.  If the drug-and-alcohol-testing rules that apply to repair stations are suspended, then repair stations will have to look to state law to judge the legality of their programs, because federal pre-emption will no longer apply to those programs.  They will also need to work with their testing consortia to be sure that they are removed from DOT testing pools, because having non-DOT regulated personnel in a DOT testing pool can be a regulatory violation.

There is also a question about how the Court’s ultimate order might apply to the recodified rules.  The original rules (found in Parts 135 and 121 of the FAA regulations) were superseded, but the RFA for the new rules had the same legal problems that the original RFA had; so the Order must make it clear whether the new rules are suspended or whether it is only the old rules.

drug testing

FAA Delays SMS Deadline

The FAA has delayed the deadline for submitting comments on the Safety Management Systems (SMS) proposed rule.  This delay was in response to a MARPA request for additional time for commenters.

The proposed SMS rule was published on November 5, 2010.  It proposes a new set of regulations that would require air carriers to develop and implement a comprehensive quality management system known as a “Safety Management System.”  This Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) proposes a new Part Five of the FAA regulations that would establish the SMS parameters for regulated businesses.

The rule is likely to have an affect that reaches beyond air carriers.  The proposed rule announced a future intent to impose the new SMS requirements on repair stations and FAA-regulated manufacturers.  It is possible that even before the standards would be imposed on PMA manufacturers, that many of the requirements could be “flowed-down” to PMA manufacturers by their SMS-regulated customers.  For these reasons, the outcome of the proposed rule is very important to the PMA community.

MARPA has been working with its Technical Committee to develop comprehensive comments on the proposed rule.  One of the Committee’s concerns is that if the rule is not well crafted, then it could  misdirect resources and actually impede safety.  MARPA members with ideas or comments are invited to share them with the Association.

The new deadline for comments on the FAA’s SMS proposal is March 7, 2011.   With this delay in the comment deadline, MARPA is hoping to use the additional time to strengthen its comments and to solicit more comments from members.

TSA’s Repair Station Security Rule is Coming!

TSA is one step closer to issuing security regulations for repair stations.  The draft notice of proposed rulemkaing has been submitted to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review.

Section 611(b)(1) of Vision 100–Century of Aviation Reauthorization Act, codified at 49 U.S.C. 44924, required TSA to issue “final regulations to ensure the security of foreign and domestic aircraft repair stations” within 240 days from date of enactment.  The deadline for those final regulations was August 8, 2004.  TSA did not meet that deadline.

Congress tried to motivate TSA to act on repair station security by setting a new deadline in section 1616 of the 9/11 Commission Act requires that the final rule be issued within one year of the date of enactment.  This new deadline was August 3, 2008.  TSA did not meet that deadline, either.

But it appears that TSA is finally putting out the long-awaited repair station security rules as a notice.  The notice was submitted to the White House office of Management and Budget on August 25 .  This means that the proposed repair station rule could be out in December (or even as early as Thanksgiving), although a January release might be more realistic.

You can find status information on the notice of proposed rulemaking on the government’s REGINFO website.

EASA Planning Reciprocal Audits of U.S. Repair Stations

The House has passed language requiring the FAA to audit foreign repair stations at least twice per year, and the Senate continues to consider the same idea.  But what does this mean to US repair stations?

There has been a lot of debate in the United States about whether our trading partners would engage in reciprocal behavior if the United States passes legislation requiring semiannual audits of foreign repair stations.  Congressman Oberstar gave a speech several months ago in which he assured Americans that there would be no reciprocity.  But it appears that he cannot speak for the Europeans.  In a June 5 letter, Daniel Calleja, the EC Director of Air Transport, asked EASA to develop a plan to ensure that Europe will be “reciprocating in full.”  EASA, in turn, has developed a reciprocal plan for semiannual audits of EASA-accepted repair stations in the United States.  The plan has an implementation date of July 2010.

What this means for US repair stations is that in addition to paying 750 Euros for their annual renewal, they will also pay the costs associated with the actual audits – I have heard estimates of $30,000 per year, although the actual cost may depend on how EASA implements the plan, and how many US repair stations choose to maintain their EASA 145 privileges.  One idea being floated would be to establish a US office to perform oversight of the 1233 EASA-accepted repair stations in the United States.


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