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Are You Registered for the MARPA Conference? It is the Best Way to Learn About the Costs of SMS!

I am looking forward to seeing everyone at the 2013 MARPA Conference on October 23-25 in Las Vegas.

This year’s conference will review some of the new FAA programs that affect PMAs, and also offer a glimpse into the new policies and regulations that will affect the PMA community in the near future.  A special highlight will be an opportunity to speak with FAA Engineering Division Manager Dave Hempe about Safety Management Systems (SMS).  He is particularly interested in knowing what SMS will cost small businesses,  This is an opportunity to ask questions, express your concerns, and provide information about potential costs.

And as always, we have A LOT of customers registered for the conference so there are tremendous sales opportunities waiting for PMA-company attendees as well!

We continue to add more information to the agenda about speakers and events, so be sure to check out the online Conference Agenda.

Not yet registered?  The Conference Registration form is available online. Just fill it out and email or fax it. Questions? Call Katt Brigham at (202) 628-6777 and she will provide answers!

Make sure your registration reaches MARPA before the next deadline to get the current registration discount!  The next deadline is Sept 21, 2013 and meeting that deadline will save MARPA members $200 (for the first-registrant from a  company) to $300 (for each additional registrant from a company) over the cost of on-site registration.

You don’t have to be a member to come – non-members are also welcome to attend the Conference for the non-member rate.

Help Shape the Future of Part 21!

We have written recently on this blog about the important SMS/Part 21 Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) and corresponding Working Groups in which representatives of MARPA are now participating.  The result of this ARC promises to affect each and every manufacturer of PMA in some way or another.  MARPA will therefore be there every step of the way, working to ensure that the interests of PMA community are protected.  But in order to ensure that we guard our members’ interests, we will need your assistance and feedback!  We are therefore asking MARPA members to tracks and share with us the cost of regulatory compliance.

The Regulatory Flexibility Act requires agencies to attempt to fit the burdens of a proposed regulation to the scale of businesses.  This recognizes the fact that the same regulatory burden that may simply be the cost of doing business to a large multinational corporation may be crippling to a small company.  Recognizing the extreme importance of scalability in the promulgation of the new Part 21, one of the four Working Groups is dedicated solely to undertaking a Cost-Benefit Analysis of the proposed regulatory changes.

This is where MARPA member feedback will be of extreme importance.  The Cost-Benefit Analysis Working Group needs data to better understand what the current cost of compliance to small business actually is.  This will function as a baseline from which to determine the benefits and costs of the proposals generated by the other three Working Groups.  As the Working Groups craft the new regulations they will turn to industry to obtain data demonstrating the effects of the proposed changes.

It is vital that MARPA members participate in providing data to the Working Groups as the new proposals are developed and those assumptions tested against hard data.  Hidden costs of compliance with regulations, under-estimations of costs, and over-estimations of benefits have the potential to result in an overly burdensome regulation.  The participation of MARPA members in providing data to the ARC Working Groups will go a long way toward shaping an effective regulation while minimizing the burden on small businesses.

Input from members helps MARPA to more effectively advocate for policy changes that benefit the PMA community.  Responses to requests for information such as this—or for data regarding the Streamlined PMA Process—helps MARPA to focus its resources to optimize benefit to the membership.

MARPA looks forward to the participation of its members in shaping the future of Part 21.  Although the Working Groups have not yet begun to approach industry with requests for data, MARPA would like to get started early.  If your company tracks the cost of regulatory compliance, whether in dollars, personnel, man-hours, paperwork, or any other metric, we want to hear from you.  Your confidentiality is important to us, so MARPA will only report data in the aggregate; no individual data will be released and no company names will be revealed.  You can send this data to MARPA Associate Counsel Ryan Aggergaard at  Please also send Ryan an email if you have any questions or would like to start tracking compliance costs.

MARPA Works on the Future of FAA Certification

The SMS/Part 21 Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) opened a three day meeting this morning in Rosslyn, Virginia.  The meeting expands the scope of the ARC to include four working groups that will develop the new rules for certification and approval of aviation products and articles.  MARPA staff attended the live meeting and MARPA members participated by dial-in teleconference.  This project will definitely affect every MARPA member and could be the most important rulemaking activity affecting the PMA community in over 60 years!

Dorenda Baker is the Director of the FAA Aircraft Certification Service.  Ultimately, the ARC reports to her.  Baker explained that the FAA is committed to taking the ARC’s recommendations and moving forward with those recommendations to craft a rule that meets our ICAO SARP obligations (SMS or Safety Management Systems).  She stressed that we need to take into consideration how this rule will apply to both large and small companies.  It needs to achieve safety goals for everyone.

Some of the points that Baker raised included these:

  • The FAA is committed to this project and has assigned significant staff resources to support the effort.  The FAA recognizes that this is more than a matter of complying with ICAO requirements: it represents the future of aircraft certification.
  • With sequestration and impending sequestration –related furloughs, it is even more important to streamline certification, and to have clear safety accountability for manufacturers.
  • In the area of the 787, the NTSB will be holding hearings and it is clear from the media coverage of the 787 concerns that the general public does not understand what FAA and industry do to ensure safety.  This tells us that outreach will be very important in order to educate people about how the new system (that the ARC recommends) will effectively support safety.
  • FAA is working on its five-year plan, and one of their initiatives is the single surveillance system (working with our partners to ensure global safety).  This project should support that effort by harmonizing to the ICAO SMS obligations.

MARPA has been centrally involved in drafting the working group charters in order to ensure that the ARC recommendations will support the next generation of safety management.  Baker’s commitment to protecting the interest of both small companies and large companies is encouraging; but the details will be important to the PMA community and there is plenty of opportunity to see a rule that does not work well.  With this in mind, this could be one of the most important projects that MARPA has ever worked-on for the future of the PMA community.  MARPA will remain at the heart of this process in order to ensure that the interests of the PMA community are protected.

Seeking Working Group Members to Help Develop New FAA Manufacturing Regulations: Apply Now!

Have you ever wanted to influence the regulations that affect your business?  Well, NOW is your best opportunity to do so!

In January, we provided early notice to the PMA community that the FAA would be seeking industry experts to volunteer for working groups that will be rewriting the manufacturing regulations.  Now, we are collecting names and submitting them!  This is a tremendous opportunity to make sure that the regulations reflect the current state of the art for certification and approval processes.

The Part 21/SMS Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) is undertaking a major project to review Part 21 and (1) to make it consistent with ICAO Standards for Safety Management Systems, (2) add regulations to create a design organization and (3) update the regulation as necessary.

The Part 21/SMS ARC has recently completed charters for four (4) working groups that will be helping to craft the Part 21 language as well as developing a new paradigm for FAA oversight of systems.  These worknig groups will report to the ARC, and will be where the real ground work occurs in changing the manufacturing regulations.  We are seeking MARPA members who would like to volunteer to be on these committees.  The first working group meetings will likely be April 3-5 and working group members will need to support the working group efforts through 2013 (final Reports are due December 10, 2013).

The four working groups are:

(1) Design Organization: This working group will develop regulations for design organizations, similar to the DOA regulation in Europe.  Design organizations will have more safety responsibility and accountability, and in turn would receive greater privileges.  The goal of this group will be to help the FAA create design organizations that can serve as the backbone for safety management.

(2) Safety Management Systems (SMS): This working group will help to integrate requirements for safety management systems in to the FAA manufacturing regulations.  The goal of this group will be to better align the FAA’s regulations with the requirements of SMS.

(3) Oversight: This working group will develop a new model for FAA oversight that will better reflect risk management in an era with shrinking government budgets and expanding industry need for government approval and/or certification.  The goal of this group will be to help the FAA create a program to ensure a consistently high level of safety with a dwindling resource pool.

(4) Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA): This working group will examine the work of the first three working groups and will help develop the data and other tools that the FAA will need to perform a cost-benefit analysis.  The work of this group will be critically important to ensuring that the product from the entire ARC makes good safety sense and good economic sense.

This effort could reflect the most significant change in the U.S. aviation manufacturing regulations in over 50 years.  The results of this effort will touch all of us.  If you think you would like to serve on one of these working groups then please contact us immediately so we can send you more information.  We need to submit our recommendations to the ARC by the end of next week, so we need to hear from you by not later than Thursday, March 7.

Early Notice of an Opportunty to Influence the Future of Aviation Manufacturing

Last month, we asked members and readers to respond to a series of questions designed to help guide MARPA as to how the regulations are working, how they are not working, and what we can do to make the aviation manufacturing regulations work better to protect safety.  Thank you to those of you who sent in emails in response!

The questions and answers were meant to support MARPA’s work as part of the FAA Safety Management Systems (SMS)/Part 21 Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC).  Jason Dickstein of MARPA and Dennis Piotrowski of BELAC are both representing the PMA community on that ARC.

The ARC is undertaking a major project to review Part 21 to make it consistent with ICAO Standards for Safety Management Systems.  The ARC also plans to recommend a number of clean-up and house-keeping changes to Part 21 – some of which have been waiting many years for an opportunity for implementation.

There is still time to answer last issue’s questions and let MARPA know what you think needs to be changed in the regulations; but this month we are giving you early notice of an opportunity to participate more directly in the rulemaking process.

In mid-February, the FAA ARC will publish Terms of Reference describing the work of each of several working groups that will be helping to craft the Part 21 language as well as developing a new paradigm for FAA oversight of systems.  At that time, we will be seeking MARPA members who would like to volunteer to be on these committees.  The first working group meetings will likely be in early April.

So be on the look-out for a mid February announcement about those working groups—we would like to get PMA representatives on every one of the working groups to make sure that the industry’s interest are protected—and we will be looking for statements of interest so that we can nominate some members.

MARPA Winter Meeting Scheduled for February 12, 2013 in Washington, DC

Don’t forget that the 2013 MARPA Winter Meeting will be held in Washington, DC on February 12, 2013.

Expected speakers include:

  • Joe White, Managing Director, Engineering and Maintenance, Airlines For America
  • John Milewski, PMA Program Manager, Federal Aviation Association
  • Kevin Cox, Partner, CliftonLarsonAllen LLP

Our topics for discussion will likely include PMA developments, streamlined PMA for non-safety-sensitive (NSS) parts, Instructions for continued airworthiness, air carrier needs, and tax laws and regulations with a particular affect on PMA parts manufacturers.  In addition to our speakers, we will be discussing our government affairs program and strategic planning for the Association.

The Winter meeting is an intimate opportunity to work closely with the Association and the Board on topics of special interest to MARPA members.

If you would like to attend the meeting, please RSVP to MARPA at (202) 628-6777. There is no charge for registering for this meeting; and the meeting is open to all MARPA members.

Your Input Needed: How Can the FAA Manufacturing Regulations Better Protect Safety?

The FAA is working to incorporate Safety Management Systems (SMS) elements into the existing Part 21 regulations for design and production.  As part of this endeavor, they have asked MARPA to assist them in an Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC).

MARPA has long been involved in SMS, having taken steps to educate the membership about the elements of SMS as well as been involved in drafting proposed regulations to implement SMS for FAA certificate holders, generally.

This new ARC represents an opportunity to ensure that the Part 21 regulations better reflect the safety needs of the industry and the public. It is a potential opportunity to remove regulations that no longer add value and to add regulations that would better ensure safety.

Following is a list of questions that we’ve developed that will help us to identify potential changes to Part 21 that might be made in the context of implementing SMS in the Part.  We would appreciate your answers to any or all of them.  While we cannot promise than any particular proposal will be implemented into the regulations, your thoughtful answer will help guide our participation on the ARC and will help us develop constructive recommendations to advance the regulatory revision process.  Where it is relevant, separating or distinguishing your answers with respect to the design, production, or other elements of the Part 21 regulations would be helpful.

Question One: What does the FAA do that you think is not necessary to safety?

  • design
  • production
  • other

Question Two: What does the FAA require you to do that you think is not necessary to safety?

  • design
  • production
  • other

Question Three: What additional activities do you think regulated aviation businesses should accomplish to better support safety?

  • design
  • production
  • other

Question Four: What additional support or information could the FAA provide that would better support safety?

  • design
  • production
  • other

Question Five: What information do you submit to the FAA that you think is not necessary to safety?

  • design
  • production
  • other

Question Six: What additional information could you submit to the FAA that you think would help promote safety?

  • design
  • production
  • other

EASA Begins the Process of Implementing SMS Rules

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has formally begun the process of implementing Safety Management System (SMS) regulations.

EASA issued the Terms of Reference (TOR) for task number MDM.055 on July 18, 2011.  This task anticipates the creation of adequate rules and guidance material to permit EASA to implement a set of SMS rules.

The Terms of Reference do not specifically explain to whom the SMS rules created under this project would apply – they merely mention some of the parties to whom ICAO has recommended apply it.  This is a more important omission than some people may understand, and it provides EASA with the ability to dynamically change the scope of application as necessary during the course of the rulemaking project without amending the TOR.  Under current ICAO recommendations, SMS should apply to air carriers, repair stations, manufacturers and airports.  In the United States, the FAA made the decision to create two different SMS rules – one for airports, and then a second one for air carriers that is intended to be later applied to repair stations and manufacturers.  EASA has said that it is amending COMMISSION REGULATION (EC) No 2042/2003 of 20 November 2003. This regulation applies to design and production organizations as well as maintenance organizations (but not to air carriers). EASA is clearly leaving itself open to any reasonable implementation strategy.

EASA has established its own goals for the task group, as follows:

  • Review the rules and AMC to clearly distinguish between essential safety elements and non-essential implementation aspects; rebalance as necessary (implementing rule to AMC or AMC to implementing rule).
  • Adopt the provisions on processing alternative means of compliance, as proposed with Part-AR and Part-OR (AR.120/OR.120), to enhance transparency and support standardisation.
  • Evaluate the possibility for persons to apply for the approval of such alternative means of compliance, where this is currently not foreseen in Part-AR.
  • Implement in Section A the management system provisions as proposed with Part-OR to ensure compliance with the relevant ICAO standards on SMS. SMS elements shall be fully integrated with the organisations’ management system.
  • As part of SMS implementation review and further develop as appropriate provisions addressing human factors, in particular to provide further guidance on how approved maintenance organisations should take into account human performance limitations, such as maintenance engineer fatigue5.
  • Improve consistency in organisation approvals and review the concept of small/large organisation to align with the approach proposed with Part-OR (complex/non-complex organisation, where size is not the only criterion to be considered).
  • Implement in Section B relevant provisions linked with the implementation of an SSP in the framework of the European Aviation Safety Programme (EASP), based on the proposal made with Part-AR.

This SMS project will be worked internally within EASA, although EASA has reserved to itself the right to call informal meetings with industry or National Aviation Authorities for additional feedback.  This internal project mechanism is consistent with the process recently used by Japan to create its SMS rules for repair stations (they offered the proposed rules for notice and comment but did not otherwise seek input from the international community).  It is different from the FAA’s approach in the United States … the FAA formed an Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) made up of industry and FAA and took advice from the ARC on how to formulate the air carrier SMS rules.

EASA has a very aggressive timetable set for the SMS project.  They expect to issue a Notice of Proposed Amendment (NPA) to seek public comment in the second quarter of 2012.

MARPA files SMS Comments

On Monday, MARPA filed comments on the FAA’s Safety Management Systems (SMS) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM).

MARPA’s comments illustrate a veriety of problems withthe proposed SMS regulations, including:

  • Paperwork Reduction Act inaccuracies
  • Regulatory Flexibility / cost-benefit inaccuracies
  • Redundancies
  • Alternative ways to achieve the desired results
  • Specific elements of the rule that needed to be changed

In addition, MARPA has also added some previously filed comments to the Government Affairs page on the MARPA website.

SMS – Get Involved or the Joke May be On You!

When developing significant new safety regulations, it is especially important to “get it right the first time.”  The reason for this special emphasis in the context of safety regulations, is because an incorrect safety regulation can oppose its intended effect – it can diminish safety – and this is unacceptable in our industry.  “Getting it right the first time” is about more than increasing safety in a static analysis – it is about creating safety regulations that will continue to increase safety in the future, without impeding other safety advances.

Take humor as a metaphor for regulation.  A joke may be uproariously funny today but if it fails to tickle the funny bone in ten years, then it is has failed to withstand the test of time (it is not “timeless” humor).  We might find the latest joke about the sitting President’s verbal gaffe to be amusing today, but how many laughs can you get, today, from President Calvin Coolidge’s one-liner “Call again.”

Often, the jokes that survive the test of time are the ones that are the simplest.  Jokes about Lindsey Lohan may seem nonsensical ten years from now, but fart jokes, however disgusting, will remain funny to a certain segment of the population forever (just ask my seven and nine year old sons).

Similarly, the regulations that tend to stand the test of time are often the ones that are the simplest.  They tend to be regulations that establish clear standards for compliance without offering a preference for the method of compliance (Executive Order 12866 actually expresses a preference for these sort of regulations).  Such regulations are the ones that still make sense fifty years after promulgation; they are also the ones that don’t inhibit safety innovation and that don’t impose documentation and reporting requirements that become outdated.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is currently working on a regulatory change that could reflect the most significant change in aviation law since the 1958 recodification.  The new regulations are known collectively as “Safety Management Systems,” or SMS.  SMS represents a significant step in the nature of quality systems applied to aviation products and services.

The idea of a quality system theory being embodied into the FAA regulations is not new.  The early repair station regulations embraced a quality control mechanism in the Inspection Procedures Manual (IPM) regulations, and this shifted in the direction of a quality assurance paradigm in the 2001 changes to Part 145 (that rule dropped a proposed quality system requirement but retained process-oriented quality manual requirements).  Similarly, the current manufacturing regulations require a mixture of quality assurance and quality control, and the new Part 21 manufacturing regulations that apply as of April 16, 2011 will strengthen the quality assurance character of those regulations.

SMS builds on existing quality assurance paradigms, but there are several things that make SMS new.  One of them is that SMS focuses resources on predictive risk analysis – the process of identifying potential hazards, assigning risk levels to them, and then mitigating the risks below a certain level.  Another is that it mandates a documentation trail whenever the company engages in any sort of safety risk acceptance (placing companies between the Scylla of over-documentation and the Charybdis of violation by failure to identify a hazard); such a documentation trail could lead to new avenues of liability as predictive analysis becomes subject to discovery in civil litigation.

Taken as a quality system, SMS provides a company with tools to help improve an already impressive safety record, by identifying possible future hazards and permitting the company to try to mitigate those hazards before they manifest themselves.  There are certainly positive elements to SMS.  SMS has the potential to generate safety over an extended time the same way that a fart joke generates laughs.

But SMS is not a perfect system, especially based on its contemplated implementation found in the regulations.  In a company that has already identified clear and present hazards, there is no clear mechanism for relief from the requirement to analyze data and identify hazards in order to shift resources to remediation.  If SMS were merely a quality system, then a quality manager would likely give herself the discretion to pull resources from data analysis and focus them on known  hazards.  But in a regulated SMS, a company may find itself perversely focused on data analysis (to meet regulatory requirements) even when those resources could be better expended on identifying and implementing a mitigation to a looming hazard.  This sort of inflexibility in directing resources could actually yield lower net safety as a consequence of SMS, in some cases.

Although the SMS regulation is written with significant apparent flexibility, the SMS Advisory Circular, which has already been drafted, appears to contemplate a resource-intensive system that could be difficult to run in small companies.  It also surrenders a great deal of discretion over the systems to the overseeing FAA inspector, providing a recipe for inconsistent implementation.

In the past, when the FAA has attempted to implement quality system elements, they have been based upon quality elements that have been implemented and for which there is considerable empirical support.  There is some data on the implementation of SMS in air carriers, but there is relatively little data  about the implementation of SMS in other types of aviation businesses – and much of that data suggests that the implementations are not always working out the way that they were intended (a significant number of the repair stations that signed-up to participate in the pilot program, later withdrew because the costs vastly outweighed the benefits).

How can the industry enjoy the benefits of SMS while avoiding its regulatory pitfalls?  How can we avoid SMS becoming the Lindsey Lohan joke of the aviation regulatory system?  It is vital that everyone in the industry read the proposed regulation and also read the draft advisory circular, and offer the FAA comments on ways to (a) simplify the rule, (b) create objective standards for the rule to permit compliance to be easily tested, and (c) provide procedural safeguards to ensure that SMS does not redirect safety resources in a negative way.  The rule remains open for comment through March 7, 2011 (this is an extension of the original comment period).

We can all hope that we end up with a rule that has the staying power of a fart joke.


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