Rulemaking Aplenty Slated For 2013

If the FAA follows the timetable established by its last major repair station rule rewrite, industry will not see a final version of the new Part 145 rule in 2013. The last time the agency went from notice of proposed rulemaking to final rule on Part 145, Y2K was all the rage. The draft rule hit in June 1999, and the extended comment period stretched into December 1999. It took the FAA until August 2001—or 20 months—to sift through nearly 500 public comments, hammer out a final rule and push it out the door.

Judging by the number of comments, the FAA has a less daunting task this time around. The new Part 145 rewrite's comment period closed in November 2012, and a late groundswell of input pushed the total number of comments filed to around 250.

Some commenters were satisfied with pointing out a few hot-button issues, while others are considerably more sweeping. The Aircraft Electronics Association (AEA), among others, believes the draft rule is a non-starter. Among AEA's many complaints: FAA's proposal to combine current radio, instrument and accessory classes into a proposed component category.

“At a time when the use of integrated avionics is expanding in modern aircraft, the agency's proposal to remove the ease of accountability provided by the radio and instrument ratings is not supported by any safety measure and would likely result in a decrease of safety oversight, AEA argues in its comments. “This proposal has no correlation to the business models of today's repair station industry,” writes AEA.

If FAA heeds the Aeronautical Repair Station Association's (ARSA) advice, near-term activity on the rulemaking could come via public meetings. ARSA called on FAA to meet with industry, issue a supplemental draft rule based on the comments received, or do both as part of the final rule-creation process. The association also provided FAA with 43 pages of comments as a starting point.

Even without a final repair station rule, 2013 has plenty in store for aviation regulatory compliance folks.

One new regulation that could see the light of day this year is the long-awaited—and long-mandated—TSA repair station security rule. Originally required to issue a final rule by August 2004, TSA didn't push out a draft version until November 2009. Industry associations, concerned about a ban on FAA's issuance of new foreign repair station certificates, enacted by Congress to speed up TSA's glacial pace, asked in late 2011 for an update on the rulemaking. TSA assured them a final rule would be out in the fourth quarter of 2012. At a December 2012 aviation security conference in Washington, a TSA official said that a final rule was “hopefully” on track for an early-2013 release.

Another congressionally mandated, repair station-related rule making progress concerns drug and alcohol testing of FAA foreign repair-station employees. Congress gave FAA a Feb. 14, 2013, deadline for the draft rule, and the agency is not far behind that schedule. The required review by the transportation secretary's office started in mid-November, about 10 weeks behind FAA's original timetable, the department reports.

Meanwhile, FAA reports that a human factors-centric rule titled Installed Systems and Equipment for Use by the Flightcrew, aimed at more intuitive flight deck and related systems design, is on track for a 2013 release. The rule, based largely on a rulemaking advisory committee's 2004 report, would require aircraft designers to maximize a flight crew's ability to detect and correct errors, such as by making key switches and warning indicators more prominent and accessible than less-critical ones. The draft rule was published in February 2011.

In an October 2012 letter to NTSB, acting FAA Administrator Michael Huerta confirmed that the rule is slated for publication in 2013—information that trumps even the Transportation Department's most recent official report (see chart).

The final version of Safety Management Systems for Part 121 carriers, originally targeted for a 2012 release, could be out this year. FAA released the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in November 2010, and the transportation secretary's office has had FAA's version of a final rule since April 2012.

Among rules once targeted for 2013 that appear to be on hold is FAA's revamping of icing airworthiness standards in Parts 25 and 33. The draft rule came out in June 2010, and FAA took comments for three months. As of mid-December 2012, a final version of the rule hadn't been passed to Transportation for review, making FAA's target release date of March 2013 all but impossible to meet. The department says the delay is due to FAA's “awaiting development of additional data.”

—By Sean Broderick

Lucerne, Switzerland

EASA Activity In 2013

The year ahead could see a shift in European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) rulemaking activity from flight operations, which dominated in 2012, to engineering and maintenance matters in 2013.

Safety Management Systems (SMS) requirements in Part-M Continuing Airworthiness and Part-145 Maintenance Organizations could be two of the driving factors.

In the past few years ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) has inserted SMS and standards and recommended practices (SARPs) into several different annexes, and it is developing a new one (Annex 19 SMS) to unify all of ICAO's SMS provisions into a single document. That annex will probably come out by the end of 2013. Once SARPs are embedded within the ICAO annexes, it becomes an obligation of the signatory states of the Chicago Convention, including EU member states, to comply with ICAO SARPs. The embodiment of SMS requirements in Part-M and Part-145 will be an interesting test to see how SMS programs will be mandated in a large aviation market.

The continuing airworthiness section of EASA's product safety department has announced a notice of proposed amendment (NPA) to EU Regulation 2042/2003 on continuing airworthiness (with focus on Part-M and Part-145 and related acceptable means of compliance and guidance materials). It was scheduled to be published in late December. The overall objective of the NPA is to adopt streamlined organization management system requirements, considering ICAO standards and recommended practices on SMS. It also attemps to review the procedures to align them with authority requirements in Part-ARA/Part-ARO, as well as to support the implementation of state safety programs in the framework of the European Aviation Safety Program.

EASA regulation also should affect flight tests. In September 2012, EASA published a comment response document (CRD) to NPA 2008-20 on flight testing for Part-21 initial airworthiness. This flight-testing regulation has been welcomed by the EU engineering and maintenance community because many personnel involved in flight tests have often had uncomfortable experiences.

It is important to note that the applicability of the original regulation focused only on flight testing and excluded maintenance-check flights and ferry flights. “However, the agency has recognized the importance to address other types of flights,” so maintenance-check flights and other flight types related to design and production activity will now be included.

It also will define categories of flight tests (CAT 1/2/3/4), the definition and qualifications for lead flight-test engineer for all categories of flight tests (for aircraft above 2,000 kg or 4,400 lb.), the qualifications for pilots for flight tests (for aircraft above 2,000 kg) and the flight-test operational manual.

“While it is acknowledged that further work may be required to rationalize some subjects (e.g., the requirements to include a lead flight-test engineer license), a delay in the publication of this material will be of increasing concern. An advance-NPA will discuss the creation of a licensing scheme for a lead flight-test engineer (lead FTE),” reported EASA.

The changes proposed by the CRD to NPA 2008-20 aim to increase safety when conducting flight tests and minimize additional burdens on the organizations involved. The CRD was released shortly after NPA 2012-08 on maintenance-check flights, addressing the need for a specific manual, dedicated pilot requirements (including training), and the definition of crew and persons on board. This NPA proposes a set of proportionate rules, depending on the complexity of the aircraft used and foreseen flight procedures. In addition, EASA proposed acceptable means of compliance and guidance.

In accordance with the text proposed in NPA 2012-08, “maintenance organizations may be able to release the inconclusive maintenance to allow for a maintenance-check flight when this is required by the aircraft maintenance manual. A permit to fly may be required if there is a need to perform a maintenance-check flight but, in accordance with the maintenance organization requirements, the aircraft cannot be released,” reports EASA. With regard to maintenance-check flights, it should be clarified that for most large aircraft there is currently no requirement, according to aircraft maintenance programs, for the performance of maintenance-check flights. It is up to the aircraft operator to require a maintenance-check flight with the responsible approved maintenance organization to make sure that the released aircraft is fully serviceable. It is common practice and highly advisable to conduct maintenance-check flights when maintenance checks imply the replacement of more than 50% of the engines or the replacement of, for example, the flight controls, the control cables and the landing gear.

EASA also is looking at simplifying regulations for general aviation MRO. It seems to recognize the heavy regulatory burden placed on small—but skilled—maintenance facilities that sometimes spend more than 50% of staff time on document compliance.

To assess the effectiveness and proportionality of the Part-M requirements on general aviation, the agency issued a survey letter on July, 4 2011; and organized a workshop in Cologne, Germany, on Oct. 27, 2011.

As a result of these actions, EASA decided in October 2012 to create a Part-M General Aviation Task Force, as outlined in NPA 2012-17. The task force's objective is to find ways to reduce the burden on the general aviation community, differentiating it into two phases.

The first phase covers areas where high costs and no real safety benefits have been identified, and for which an extensive regulatory impact assessment is not required, in particular maintenance programs and airworthiness reviews. The second phase covers other areas where further action is needed—such as rulemaking, standardization and change management—but where more technical discussions and an extensive regulatory impact assessment are required.

—By Mario Pierobon

Update on Select FAA Significant Rulemakings
Document Original Projected Publication Date Last Projected Publication Date Publication Date Latest Action
Air carrier maintenance training NPRM 6/2/15 None reported None reported Returned to DOT for second review 12/11
Installed systems and equipment for use by flight crew 8/7/12 10/4/12 10/4/12 Sent to OST 5/2/12
Supercooled large droplet icing conditions 2/7/16 3/22/17 3/22/17 None reported
Production/airworthiness II NPRM 1/17/18 1/17/18 1/17/18 No reported actions
SMS for Part 121s 7/28/16 9/5/16 4/25/17 Sent to OST 4/12/12
Drug/alcohol testing for certain foreign repair station employees 9/18/16 12/14/16 1/11/17 Sent to OST 11/13/12
Source: December 2012 U.S. Transportation Dept. (DOT) Report OST = Office of the Secretary of TransportationNPRM = Notice of Proposed Rulemaking SMS = Safety Management Systems