ICA Guidance Open for Comment

The FAA has released for comment two guidance documents pertaining to Instructions for Continued Airworthiness (ICA): Draft FAA Order 8110.54B and Draft Advisory Circular 20-ICA. ICA availability is an issue that has a direct effect on repair stations and distributors, and ASA has done a significant amount of work to ensure that ICA are available and accurate in accordance with the Federal Aviation Regulations.

Draft Order 8110.54B is guidance directed at FAA personnel and persons responsible for administering the requirements for ICA.  Among other changes, the draft reorganizes the Order to reflect material moved to AC 20-ICA (below), and importantly incorporates guidance implementing the FAA’s Policy Statement PS-AIR-21.50.01, Type Design Approval Holder Inappropriate Restrictions on the Use and Availability of Instructions for Continued Airworthiness.  ASA has been supportive of the FAA in the adoption that Policy Statement that is intended to protect the industry from anti-competitive ICA restrictions.

Draft AC 20-ICA is a new Advisory Circular that removes industry-specific guidance from the internal FAA Order and places it in a stand-alone AC.  This effort is similar to the FAA’s actions in revising other Orders, which are directed to FAA employees, and removing guidance that is actually intended to be directed outward toward industry and properly placing it in an Advisory Circular.  Like Draft Order 8110.54B, the draft AC implements the FAA policy on ICA established in the Policy Statement.  The proposed AC provides guidance to design approval holders (DAH) and design approval applicants for developing and distributing ICA.

Not only does the availability of ICA directly effect repair stations, the availability of parts lists that are included as a part of the ICA is an important issue for the supplier community.

After a preliminary review these documents appear to offer very positive guidance for the aviation maintenance and distribution industries.  ASA will be reviewing both of these documents closely and offering comments and support for these policies to the FAA.  We encourage repair stations and distributors to review both documents as well.

Comments on both guidance documents must be submitted by October 6, 2015, and may be submitted to the FAA via email to 9-AVS-ICA@faa.gov.  If you have comments or observations that you feel ASA should include in its comments to the FAA, email them to Ryan Aggergaard at ryan@washingtonaviation.com so the we can include them.

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ASA Files Comments with the FAA on the FAA’s Proposed Guidance on Instructions for Continued Airworthiness

ASA has filed comments with the FAA on the FAA’s proposed guidance on Instructions for Continued Airworthiness.

The proposed guidance is known by its title “Inappropriate DAH Restrictions on the Use and Availability of ICA.”

ASA explained that it supports the Policy Statement and welcomes the FAA’s efforts to improve safety by establishing clear guidelines for its acceptance of ICA distribution mechanisms.

Historically, the aviation parts distribution industry has only been interested in one element of the ICAs: the Illustrated Parts Catalogs (IPCs). This has changed with recent changes in the regulations.

ASA’s member have an interest in seeing consumers, like air carriers and repair stations, have an opportunity to choose the right parts to support safe flight. To this end, ASA has championed traceability paradigms in the industry that help to ensure that customers know what they are getting and get what they need. These traceability paradigms have helped to address suspected unapproved and counterfeit aircraft parts issues in the industry.  An important element of modern aircraft parts distribution is the transparent ability of anyone in the system to be able to review the appropriate documentation for an aircraft part and identify its approval basis from that documentation.

It is normal in the industry for distributors to buy parts in need of overhaul, and manage the overhaul process. These parts are then made available for use in the aviation community (the distributor may be managing the logisitcs for an air carrier or other operator, or the distributor may own the parts and then offer the overhauled parts for exchange or for outright sale). ASA members rely on the maintenance community to inspect and repair rotable parts and they need them to have the right data to support those efforts.

The FAA’s recent changes to the Part 21 manufacturing regulations implemented a new definition for the term “commercial parts.” This new definition is different from the common industry usage of that term in the past. Under the new definition, the only “commercial parts” are those parts listed in the commercial parts list of the ICAs.

Recent Unapproved Parts Notices have listed distributors who have handled the unapproved parts as if the distributors were ‘guilty parties.’ The FAA has admitted in the Federal Court system that UPNs are “orders.” Avia Dynamics, Inc. v. FAA, 641 F.3d 515, 519 (D.C. Cir. 2011). Therefore, it is a matter of compliance that distributors must forbear from selling unapproved parts. See FAA Advisory Circular 21.29C change 2, Detecting and Reporting Suspected Unapproved Parts (August 17, 2011). The only way to identify whether a part is or is not a “commercial part” is to have access to the commercial parts lists published as part of the ICAs.  Therefore, distributors of aircraft parts now have a practical need to comply with certain elements of the ICAs (the commercial parts lists).

In light of the fact that distributors now need to comply with the Commercial Parts Lists (CPLs) of the ICAs, this guidance should make it clear that distributors are now among the parties who need access to the ICAs/CPLs. We specifically recommended to the FAA that the following paragraphs be added to the policy:

Making ICA Available to Aircraft Parts Distributors
One of the elements of an ICA is a detailed description of the product and its components. E.g. 14 C.F.R. Part 33 App’x A33.3(a)(2). This is generally accomplished by publishing an illustrated parts catalog.

Distributors of aircraft parts rely on the illustrated parts catalog (IPC) in the ICAs to help identify parts and to ensure, at the time of receiving inspection, that parts appear to be genuine and correctly labeled.

The recent rule change permitting manufacturers to create commercial parts lists (CPLs) makes it clear that the CPLs are part of the ICAs. Aircraft parts distributors need access to the CPL in order to ensure their continued compliance with approved parts obligations.

The FAA maintains a list of accredited aircraft parts distributors pursuant to the requirements of Advisory Circular 00-56 (Voluntary Industry Distributor Accreditation Program). Aircraft Parts Distributors identified on this list are among the class of parties who must have access to the CPLs and IPCs. Unless the distributor is entitled to other parts of the ICAs for other reasons (such as qualification under Order 8110.54), a distributor’s entitlement to the ICAs is limited only to the IPC and CPL.

An owner/operator or repair station also has the right under §21.50(b) to obtain the ICA from the DAH and then provide the IPC and CPL to the parts supplier(s) of its choice.

ASA Supports FAA ICA Policy

More than ever, it is important for the aircraft parts distribution community that repair vendors have access to the latest maintenance instructions for rotable parts. ASA members are ferquently relying on repair stations to overhaul parts that will be made available to the aviation industry to support safe flight. Today, ASA filed comments on the Proposed FAA ICA Policy (Policy Statement, PS-AIR-21.50-01: Inappropriate DAH Restrictions on the Use and Availability of ICA). ASA’s comments supported the policy, but requested that the FAA policy better reflect the new need for Commercial Parts Lists to be made available. ASA’s comments will be made available on ASA’s website.

The FAA policy was written in response to the growing practice of manufacturers licensing their manuals on the condition that the licensee repair station or air carrier/operator pledge to refrain from using competitive products like DER repairs or PMA parts. This can make it more difficult for ASA members to find qualified repair stations to overhaul aircraft parts, and it increases the total cost of obtaining repairs by creating a monopolistic environment that permits the manufacturer to charge monopolistic prices for parts and technologies that are needed for repairs. This undermines competition, innovation and safety.

The FAA retains the power to influence the method of distribution for ICAs, because the regulatory appendices that describe the minimum standards for such ICAs require the ICA-publisher to have a mechanism for distributing the ICAs and their amendments, and to submit that mechanism to the FAA. This permits the FAA to establish standards for what will be considered acceptable or unacceptable among such distribution mechanisms.

The FAA policy makes it clear that it is not acceptable for manufacturers to license their ICAs using restrictive licenses that preclude competition. For example, an engine manufacturer may not license its ICAs on the condition that the licensee agree not to purchase PMA parts for the engines.

ASA supports practices that make it easier for repair stations to ensure tha their repairs reflect the latest technologies, and methods for achieving safety.  Thus, ASA is very supportive of the FAA policy.

ASA exhorts the entire aviation community to file comments with the FAA supporting the FAA ICA Policy Memo. Comments may be filed by sending an email to John.Cerra@FAA.gov.

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