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.

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DOT-OIG Report Criticizes FAA’s Repair Station Oversight

The DOT Inspector General’s Office has released a report that is critical of the FAA’s oversight of repair stations.

The Report follows-on to earlier DOT-OIG reports that were issued in 2003 and 2008 and addressed FAA oversight of repair stations.

The 2003 Report explained that the auditors had found non-compliances at repair stations and attributed those non-compliances to lack of effective FAA oversight.

In 2008, DOT-OIG concluded that the FAA was not effectively focusing its inspection resources on those repair stations providing the highest volume of repairs.  DOT-OIG felt that this caused deficiencies at repair stations to go undetected or reoccur.  They also felt that this prevented FAA inspectors from obtaining sufficient data to perform comprehensive risk assessments.

The most recent report in the series was issued May 1, 2013.  The Report acknowledges that FAA has created a risk assessment tool, but found that it is not being well-used for a variety of reasons, including conflicting guidance, ineffective checklists, narrow data pools for conducting risk assessment and lack of FAA inspector training.  DOT-OIG opined that “As a result of FAA’s insufficient oversight, some repair stations may not be operating in full compliance with Federal aviation regulations.”

To enhance its oversight of repair stations,DOT-OIG recommend that FAA:

  1. Modify its oversight system so that all inspection elements are considered in inspector risk assessments of repair stations.
  2. Implement a risk-based system appropriate for oversight of foreign repair stations.
  3. Modify the risk assessment tool so that inspectors can document changes to their surveillance plans as soon as they are made.
  4. Develop a control that will ensure inspectors prioritize inspections to those repair stations determined to have increased risk.
  5. Enhance training for inspectors so they understand the importance of using the available tools for assessing and trending risk.
  6. Develop the Repair Station Data Package and provide training to all inspectors on how to use it.
  7. Develop a standardized checklist that all inspectors can use to improve the consistency in the way they perform and report their inspection findings.
  8. Provide training for inspectors to improve their review and acceptance of repair station corrective plans.
  9. Provide training to inspectors on how to conduct comprehensive post-inspection briefings and require them to issue a draft report of tentative findings to repair station officials at the conclusion of inspections.

In response, FAA pledged to offer training to its workforce, and improve the capabilities and performance of the risk-based analytical tools available to inspectors.

DOT-OIG was pleased with most of FAA’s remedial plans but remained concerns about three areas:

  1. FAA stated that it will conduct recurrent training to improve the use of the risk assesment tools, but DOIT OIG noted that this did not help the fact that FAA inspectors continue to complete mandatory inspections instead oftargeting resources where they are needed based on risk.  DOT-OIG felt that additional training would be helpful, but it would not address the fact that FAA guidance requires only seven inspection elements to be assessed for risk while the other nine are inspected annually, regardless of risk.
  2. FAA also relied on training as a remedy to the failing in the risk assessment tool, and DOT-OIG felt that this would be inadequate because some of the design-based failings and limitations of the risk-based system needed to be modified.
  3. Finally, DOT-OIG expressed concern that “FAA still lacks a method for verifying whether inspectors actually meet the requirements” especially in light of the audit finding that showed that “many inspectors do not effectively prioritize their inspections based on risk.”

Entitled “FAA Continues To Face Challenges in Implementing a Risk-Based Approach for Repair Station Oversight,” the report is available online.

FAA Changes the Criteria for Maintaining Night Vision Goggles

Night Vision Goggles were once thought of as exclusively military technology, but now they are used in daily civilian use. This migration has caused the FAA to spend more time thinking about repair of Night Vision Goggles used by civilian aviators.

When Night Vision Goggle technology first became available for civil-use, aeronautical repair stations used military maintenance specifications or they used developed their own repair methods  in order to service the goggles.  The FAA issued limited specialized service ratings to these repair stations to reflect the appropriate rating for the work.

In 2004, the FAA published a Technical Standard Order for Night Vision Goggles – TSO-C164. In the wake of this TSO, repair station maintenance of Night Vision Goggles has increased.

The FAA feels that maintaining Night Vision Goggles is no longer novel, unique, or unusual.  They have concluded that it is no longer appropriate to issue a limited specialized services rating for Night Vision Goggle maintenance, and have published Notice 8900.202 concerning Night Vision Goggle maintenance.

The FAA now feels that Night Vision Goggles should be maintained under a Class 3 Accessory or Limited Accessory rating.  This decision does not invalidate existing limited specialized services ratings, but it does mean that new repair stations wishing to do this work should apply for a Class 3 Accessory or Limited Accessory rating, and it also means that existing repair stations should be able to drop the limited specialized services rating in favor of a Class 3 Accessory or Limited Accessory rating (as appropriate) if that is their desire.

Repair stations maintaining Night Vision Goggles should investigate to make sure that they have the right rating for the work that they are performing.  Distributors seeking maintenance of Night Vision Goggles should make sure that the repair stations that they use are properly rated.

ASA Files Repair Station Comments to Protect Members

ASA has filed comments in response to the FAA Notice of Proposed Rulemaking concerning repair stations and their ratings.  Although the ratings proposal was the centerpiece of this proposed rule, many of the proposals that caused the most concern were those unrelated to the ratings element of the proposal.

This is a proposed rule that could have a significant effect on the ASA Community.  Some of the regulatory proposals, for example, could interfere with documentation and traceability norms.

Issues addressed by the wide-ranging comments from ASA included:
<ul>
<li>Recertification</li>
<li>Certificate Surrender</li>
<li>Asset Sale</li>
<li>Ratings</li>
<li>Capabilities Lists in the Operations Specifications</li>
<li>Removing Operations Specifications from the Certificate</li>
<li>Capabilities Lists</li>
<li>Quality Systems</li>
<li>Appropriate Equipment and Tools</li>
<li>Permanent Blacklisting From the Industry under § 1051(e)</li>
<li>Entitlement to Certificate under § 1053(a)</li>
<li>Change to Part 43 Appendix B</li>
</ul>
A complete set of the ASA Comments will soon be posted to the <a title=”ASA Website” href=”http://www.aviationsuppliers.org&#8221; target=”_blank”>ASA website</a>.

A Guide to Commenting on the Repair Station Rule

Don’t forget that the deadline for commenting on the FAA proposed rule concerning repair stations is approaching quickly.

This rule will likely affect most ASA members, whether directly (because the member is also a repair station) or indirectly (affecting repair station customers or affecting repair stations that the member uses as repair vendors).

AEA has just published an article that I wrote about why the industry should comment on the proposed rule, and how to go about commenting.  The article can be found online.

After explaining why and how to comment, the article examines some of the issues rasied by the rule, and offers a radical alternative to ratings … the elimination of the ratings system in favor of reliance on the already-common capabilties list system.  The article examines several other issues raised by the proposal.

This is a rule on which every member of the industry should file comments.  Comments on the proposed rule are due to the FAA by November 19, and should reference dockste number FAA-2006-26408.  Click here to comment!

SBA Repair Station Meeting Rescheduled

The Small Business Administration roundtable to discuss the FAA’s proposed Aviation Repair Station Rule – postponed due to the effects of Hurricane Sandy – has been rescheduled for Monday, November 5, 2012, from 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

The proposed rule, which the FAA claims is necessary to keep pace with current industry standards and practices, is expected to have a secondary effect on repair station customers and business partners. This includes aircraft parts distributors.  The SBA has recognized that there is significant small business interested in the proposed rule, and will typically write and file comments in response to industry concerns.

Those interested in attending the roundtable should RSVP to Bruce Lundegren via email.  A dial in conference call option may also be available with advanced request.  If you wish to dial in, contact Bruce Lundegren so that SBA can make the appropriate arrangements.

SBA Contact Information:

Bruce E. Lundegren, Assistant Chief Counsel, SBA Office of Advocacy
U.S. Small Business Administration
409 3rd St. SW, Washington, DC 20416
tel: (202) 205-6144
email: bruce.lundegren@sba.gov

SBA Repair Station Meeting Postponed!

The Small Business Administration’s small business roundtable to discuss the FAA’s proposed Aviation Repair Station rule has been postponed due to the severe weather effects of Hurricane Sandy.  The meeting will be rescheduled in the next couple of days.

The FAA’s proposed rule would revise the system of ratings, repair station certification requirements, the regulations on repair stations providing maintenance for air carriers, and even the way that repair stations record maintenance.  The rule is expected to have a secondary affect on repair station customers and business partners, including aircraft parts distributors.

The SBA has recognized the potential effects of the rule changes on small businesses and originally scheduled a roundtable meeting on October 30, 2012, to discuss the changes. Typically, the SBA will file comments to address industry concerns.  The roundtable is an excellent opportunity to make your concerns heard.  ASA will also submit comments on the proposed rule.

The ASA blog has periodically offered updates on the proposed Aviation Repair Station rule and will post an update when the SBA meeting is rescheduled.  Those interested in attending the rescheduled roundtable should RSVP to Bruce Lundgren via email.  A conference call option is usually available upon request.  If you wish to dial in, contact Bruce Lundgren in advance so that SBA can make the appropriate arrangements (but please wait until after the hurricane has passed and the federal Government is open again).

SBA Contact Information:

Bruce E. Lundegren, Assistant Chief Counsel, SBA Office of Advocacy
U.S. Small Business Administration
409 3rd St. SW, Washington, DC 20416
tel: (202) 205-6144
email: bruce.lundegren@sba.gov
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