FAA Gears Up for Covid-19: What Does This Mean for Distributors and their DARs?

Ali Bahrami hosted a teleconference yesterday afternoon and invited industry leaders to discuss the FAA ongoing work to support aviation safety during the Covid-19 crisis.  Bahrami is the FAA’s Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety but he used to be with AIA so he understands the industry perspective, and the importance of transparency in government.

Bahrami expects the situation to impact the FAA for about 60-90 days, and has been planning accordingly. The FAA expects to issue new policy statements and extensions in order to facilitate aviation business while maintaining aviation safety.  They expect the first of the new guidance documents to be released by the end of this week.

Risk-Based Approach

Last week and this week the FAA has been working on using a risk-based approach to identify and categorize the tasks the FAA performs.  The FAA has used this approach to distinguish which tasks can be delayed and which ones must be accomplished as planned in order to preserve the expected level of safety.  Among those that must be performed as planned, they are investigating how best to ensure health and safety when they perform the tasks.  Some examples include:

  • The FAA is publishing guidance on how technologies can be used to perform remote oversight during the Covid-19 crisis;
  • Expiring class one medical certificates will be extended for 90 days so that holders will not have to visit aviation medical examiners during the Covid-19 crisis;
  • The FAA is investigating ways to mitigate the health dangers of Covid-19 in confined spaces, like health risks to to inspectors, trainers and students in simulators;

The FAA has been coordinating its plans with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in order to help ensure that the FAA’s practices are consistent with those of the rest of the world, and will not adversely affect acceptance of  US aviation products in the rest of the world.

FAA Aircraft Certification Service

Earl Lawrence is the Executive Director of the FAA’s Aircraft Certification Service. He’s also a former trade association guy and an old friend – having worked for EAA for many years.  Lawrence joined the call to talk about FAA oversight of design and production, but he also answered questions about DARs, which is an important issue for ASA members.

DAR Extensions and Privileges

Lawrence explained that he remembered our concerns about DARs, and that the FAA is already working on the guidance for them.  The current guidance for the Covid-19 crisis will be modeled on the approach that the FAA adopted during the last government shutdown.

During the last government shutdown, ASA worked with Lawrence on protocols for extending DARs’ recurrent training and extension requirements.  Under those protocols, those who needed training during the shutdown would be able to wait and get the training after the shutdown; and those whose authority expired during the shutdown would be permitted to operate until after the end of the shutdown (the guidance included a window of time after the shutdown, because of the recognition that the FAA would not be able to process everything immediately, after the shutdown ended). This should be the model for treatment of DAR renewal and training during the Covid-19 crisis.

The new designee guidance is being developed jointly with the Flight Standards Service to make sure that all DARs are covered.  He expects it to be issued next week.

Remote Witnessing and 8130-3 Tags

Lawrence explained that his office is also working on how best to use technology during Covid-19 to accomplish their oversight goals.

In fact, his office is working on two pieces of guidance – one on deviation authority to permit use of remote technologies to carry out FAA oversight responsibilities and one on using technology to accomplish testing, oversight, witnessing and certification in FAA projects.  Lawrence expects both of these documents to be in draft form by today, and hopes to have them issued by early next week.

He expects that their ideas will be turned into guidance that can be used by FAA designees as well.  He specifically mentioned using remote technologies for issuing 8130-3 tags during the Covid-19 crisis.

About Jason Dickstein
Mr. Dickstein is the President of the Washington Aviation Group, a Washington, DC-based aviation law firm. Since 1992, he has represented aviation trade associations and businesses that include aircraft and aircraft parts manufacturers, distributors, and repair stations, as well as both commercial and private operators. Blog content published by Mr. Dickstein is not legal advice; and may not reflect all possible fact patterns. Readers should exercise care when applying information from blog articles to their own fact patterns.

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