EASA Takes Another Step Toward Formal Recognition of Accreditation

Europe has taken the next step towards formal recognition of the distributor accreditation program.

On December 10th, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) issued its Comment Response Document (CRD) for “Control of suppliers of components and materials used in maintenance.”  This CRD contains the comments received on the Notice of Proposed Amendment (NPA) for the Supplier Control rule.

This changes would require EASA 145 organizations to have a method for assuring the satisfactory condition of the aircraft parts that they receive, and would recommend receiving inspection and supplier control as methods to achieve that end.  Related guidance explains that reliance on accredited distributors (explicitly including ASA-100 accredited distributors) would be a satisfactory way to meet the supplier control element.  A complete discussion of the proposal can be found in an earlier blog post on the NPA.

This is not yet law in Europe.  The next step will be for the European Commission to issue an amendment that features the regulatory changes, and then EASA would issue a Decision that adopts the changes to the advisory/guidance materials.

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EASA 145 outside the EU: New Guidance Open for Comment

The European Aviation Safety Agency has issued for comment a Notice of Proposed Amendment, NPA 2013-12, that is meant to clarify the process of issuing Part-145 approvals to maintenance organizations outside of EASA’s Member States.  The guidance is targeted at both base and line maintenance organizations, and as such has the potential to affect anyone who holds EASA Part-145 certificates for such organizations, as well as distributors doing business with those organizations.

The stated purpose of the NPA is to provide and update Acceptable Means of Compliance (AMC) and Guidance Material (GM) to address inconsistencies that have arisen when the EASA acts as a competent authority for Part-145 organizations located outside of Member States.  Some of the amendments will also touch maintenance organizations within Member States.  Organizations that perform maintenance on aircraft (or components) registered in a Member State or used by an operator overseen by a Member State must be approved in accordance with Part-145 (also known as Annex II).

One area targeted for clarification is AMC 145.A.30.(d) addressing personnel requirements.  The new proposal reiterates the importance of having adequate personnel to perform an organization’s planned scope of work. However, the proposed new language seems vague and unhelpful in terms of providing useful compliance guidance:

The objective of this provision is to ensure the stability of the maintenance organisation approved under Part-145 in order to perform their planned scope of work.

If most of the staff were contracted, the organisation which employs those persons may decide to remove them from the maintenance organisation approved under Part-145 and relocate them to another organisation if, for example, there is a better offer. In such a case, the maintenance organisation approved under Part-145 would suffer a sudden and very significant reduction of the workforce until they are able to recruit new staff, with the corresponding negative effect on its activities.

However, if most of the staff are employed by the maintenance organisation approved under Part-145, the risk of this happening is much lower.

Nevertheless, there are cases where a percentage higher than 50 % contracted staff may not negatively affect the stability of the maintenance organisation approved under Part-145 and could be allowed by the competent authority. This may be the case where the maintenance personnel are employed by a parent company of the maintenance organisation approved under Part-145.

Such language does not provide guidance (in fact it appears somewhat contradictory) but rather presents hypothetical scenarios that are commercial in nature and should be addressed by the organizations themselves, not by regulators.

The NPA also provides new guidance pertaining to the qualification of certifying staff at facilities registered in non-Member States.

Certification of maintenance performed on aircraft is another area that is clarified.  The new guidance explains that the requirements apply only to aircraft covered by the Basic Regulation, and specifically lists those to which it does not apply:

  • aircraft carrying out military, customs, police, search and rescue, firefighting, coastguard or similar activites or services;
  • aircraft listed in Annex II of the Basic Regulation;
  • aircraft registered in a non-Member State and not being used by a Community operator;
  • aircraft for which the regulatory safety oversight has been transferred to a non-Member State and which are not used by a Community operator.

Such clarifications are helpful in establishing which regulations govern certification of maintenance performed on the aircraft.  The proposed change also helpfully clarifies that for engines, propellers, and other components, an EASA Form 1 may generally be issued due to the fact that the next aircraft on which the part will be installed is often unknown.

The NPA also adds a new AMC describing a proper corrective action plan to perform a root cause analysis of Level 1 findings- those findings of non-compliance that are a serious hazard to flight safety.

Finally, the proposed amendment makes small changes to guidance related to initial approvals, changes, and revocations, suspensions and limitations.

As with all NPAs, these changes warrant a close review and comment to ensure your business is protected.  Comments for this NPA may be submitted through EASA’s Comment-Response Tool (CRT) at http://hub.easa.europa.eu/crt/, and please share your comments with ASA as well.  Comments are due October 11, 2013.

ASA Continues to Work with EASA on Distributor Issues

In November, ASA will meet again with EASA to discuss the proposed Supplier Control rule for Part 145 maintenance organizations.

Under the proposed rule, Part 145 maintenance organizations would be required to take steps to ensure the airworthiness of the parts that they receive.  This is already a part of the EASA guidance, and is merely being made more explicit in the rules.

The real change under the proposed rule is expanded guidance about methods for effective quality assurance.  The guidance recommendations are focused on two elements that should come as no surprise to anyone in the aviation parts industry: (1) effective receiving inspection, and (2) robust supplier control.

The proposed rule recognizes that the industry has developed a very effective mechanism for aftermarket supplier control, and it endorses this effective mechanism.  It explains that although a Part 145 maintenance organization can perform its own supplier auditing, reliance on certain industry-accepted third party auditing mechanisms has become standard in the industry.  Based on nearly twenty years of success, the proposed rule recognizes that AC 00-56, and the standards that it endorses, represents a sound method for ensuring that effective quality controls are exercised in the aircraft parts distribution chain.

In addition to recognizing reliance on AC 00-56 as an effective tool to support supplier quality assurance, the proposed guidance also lays out the elements of an effective distributor quality system (the proposed rule includes an analysis in the appendices to show that ASA-100 already meets the new European requirements).

This European effort helps to validate the notion that companies that voluntarily adopted AC 00-56 (and ASA-100) compliant systems were doing the right thing.

When ASA meets with EASA in early November, we will be discussing the industry comments on the proposed rule, and how best to adopt those comments into the final rule.  Any ASA members who has comments on the proposed rule or the related guidance should make sure to get them to ASA before the end of October.

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