FAA Authorizes ASA to Perform Remote Auditing under AC 00-56B

This morning, the FAA sent a letter to ASA authorizing ASA to conduct remote audits during the Covid-19 National Emergency.

This will allow ASA-100 accredited companies to obtain audits during the coronavirus crisis, and to maintain their ASA-100 and AC 00-56B accreditation. ASA will continue to play its part in supporting safety through the aviation supply chain.

What if you are accredited to AC 00-56B through an ASACB audit under one of the ISO standards: ISO9001, AS9100, AS9110 or AS9120?  No problem.  ASACB also secured permission from the FAA to perform remote audits for AC 00-56B accreditees under one of the FAA-recognized ISO9001, AS9100, AS9110 and AS9120.  ANAB, the ANSI National Accreditation Board, has already issued permission for ASACB to perform remote audits.  Both sets of permission are necessary, because both FAA and ANAB have oversight authority over ASACB.

Background

Why did ASA need to go through this formal approval process?

FAA AC 00-56 Accreditation Supports Safety

In the 1980s and 1990s, there were industry concerns that aircraft parts distribution could be a source of inadequate parts that failed to meet safety standards. The FAA investigated a number of options, such as regulating distibutors, and decided to try setting voluntary standards and permitting third party oversight as a tool for establishing safety assurance standards to be used in distribution.

The FAA published AC 00-56 (the Voluntary Industry Distributor Accreditation Program) in 1996. The program recognized Accreditation Organizations with standards that were considered acceptable to the FAA.  One of those Accreditation Organizations was ASA, which used ASA-100 (and later was also permitted to use ISO9001, AS9100, AS9110 and AS9120).  The recognized Accreditation Organizations were permitted to audit Distributors’ compliance to the published voluntary standard. This meant that the distributor had to meet the quality standard (ASA-100, ISO9001, AS9100, AS9110 or AS9120) and also all of the elements of AC )0-56.

Since the inspection of the program, the FAA has audited ASA to gauge the success of the program.  FAA program audits have confirmed that this AC 00-56B program reflects a sound safety program that makes a positive contribution to aviation safety. The AC 00-56 Program has become an important tool to assist the FAA in ensuring aviation safety.

AC 00-56 has become a globally recognized program. There are AC 00-56 accredited distributors on every continent except Antarctica. The European Union has promulgated laws requiring Part 145 certificate holders to have procedures for accepting components. EASA 145.A.42(b)(i). EASA has interpreted this to mean that 145 organizations must evaluate their suppliers (EASA AMC1 145.A.42(b)(i) Components, ¶ (b)). AC 00-56 (and ASA-100) has been recognized as an acceptable program for supplier evaluation under European supplier control laws (EASA GM3 145.A.42(b)(i) Components, ¶ (b)(4)).  ASA has been in talks with other civil aviation authorities around the world to encourage them to adopt similar provisions recognizing the value of distributor accreditation.

AC 00-56B Requires Onsite Auditing

One of the features of the AC 00-56B program is onsite auditing of the Distributors. AC 00-56B requires onsite audits in section eight, paragraphs (b) and (f). The onsite audits are performed by qualified auditors who meet the requirements of AC 00-56B, under the coordination of Accreditation Organizations recognized in AC 00-56B.

On March 13, 2020, President Trump issued a Proclamation on Declaring a National Emergency Concerning the Novel Coronavirus Outbreak. The Proclamation recognized that “[t]he spread of COVID-19 within our Nation’s communities threatens to strain our Nation’s healthcare systems.” Since that date, many United States governors and mayors have issued correlative orders: restricting travel and requiring people to remain in their residences. Covid-19 has affected the availability and advisability of travel.

Health concerns related to Covid-19 are making onsite auditing under AC 00-56B an unnecessary risk.  Travel restrictions and state “stay-at-home” orders are making it impractical to perform onsite auditing under AC 00-56B.  Remote auditing mitigates the risks posed by onsite auditing, while providing a practical response to the need to “stay-at-home” to reduce disease transmission.

While remote auditing seems like the right response, it is still not permitted under AC 00-56B.  Thus, the industry needed a formal FAA deviation or exemption that permitted remote auditing.  ASA discussed with the FAA issuing a Notice to permit industry-wide remote auditing under AC 00-56B, but the FAA was uncomfortable with this because of the need for procedures that would ensure remote auditing was successful.  ASA petitioned the FAA to permit ASA to perform remote audits, based upon ASA’s remote auditing process and remote auditing auditor training program.

Remote Auditing the Right Way

The FAA authority is subject to ASA’s internal procedures for remote auditing, which have been developed by the audit team to help ensure an equivalent level of safety assurance. These procedures include new techniques for investigation by the audit team, and identification of objective evidence of adequate compliance.

ASA has already performed auditor training to teach the audit team how to perform remote auditing successfully.  Additional staff training is now planned for the approved procedures.

The current ASA authorization from the FAA for remote auditing is valid from April 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020.  The scope is global, so that ASA can continue to provide services to clients everywhere in the world.

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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