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New AD Legal Interpretation Draws Ire from Maintenance Industry

On April 27, the FAA responded to public comments on a proposed legal interpretation that further defines the nuances of complying with an airworthiness directive (AD). The interpretation was made is response to a request by the FAA’s Organization Procedures Working Group of the Airworthiness Directive Implementation Aviation Rulemaking Committee (AD ARC) – of which ARSA was an active member – to address a number of AD-related compliance issues. Most notably, the AD ARC asked the agency to elaborate on an operator’s continuing obligation to maintain a product in an AD-mandated configuration after the unsafe condition is resolved. Unfortunately, the proposed interpretation continues to reiterate that AD’d products will never be able to re-enter a traditional maintenance program.

As a general matter, ARSA pointed out in its July 2011 comments that the agency’s interpretation fundamentally misunderstands the existing relationship between the design, production, maintenance and operating rules in Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). Moreover, by ignoring the independent nature of individual regulations – such as the AD rules in part 39 – it disregards the regulatory structure thereby creating conflicting requirements and considerable confusion. When applied as intended the rules provide a logical means to address unsafe conditions in both new products and operating aircraft.

The FAA’s proposed interpretation, however, finds that initial and continuing compliance for all ADs is required. This overly broad application even includes ADs that require a “terminating action” to remove an unsafe condition. A typical example of a terminating AD would be one that mandates the removal or replacement of a defective part. The FAA asserts that once the terminating action is completed, the resulting configuration is an FAA-approved type design which must be maintained under §§ 39.7 and 39.9.

ARSA and a number of AD ARC members rejected this position arguing that continued compliance for terminating ADs falls within the ambit of the maintenance and operations rules. In other words, once the AD actions have been accomplished, other rules apply to the proper operation, condition and continued airworthiness of the aircraft. In order to be airworthy, an aircraft must conform to its type design and be in a condition for safe operation. New aircraft that have been released from the factory sans the unsafe condition under an updated type design are maintained and operated in accordance with part 43 and the various operations rules. If an aircraft’s type design is modified by an AD, there is no reason to treat it differently and require it to be maintained under part 39. In both instances the aircraft must be maintained in an airworthy condition, which means complying with the approved design.

While the FAA fails to understand its own regulatory framework, ARSA will continue to work with the agency on developing a clear and coherent AD compliance policy. Regulations that are unambiguous do not need to be interpreted any further. The existing regulatory structure logically and effectively resolves unsafe conditions and prevents their reintroduction into the U.S. fleet. All the FAA needs to do is get out of its own way and let its system work.

Previously from ARSA...

ARSA Comments on FAA’s Airworthiness Directive Interpretation

July 1, 2011

On June 30, ARSA submitted comments to the FAA’s proposed Airworthiness Directive (AD) legal interpretation.

The proposed interpretation comes in response to a request from the FAA’s Organization Procedures Working Group of the Airworthiness Directive Implementation Aviation Rulemaking Committee (AD ARC), of which ARSA is an active member.

ARSA’s comments point out that the FAA’s interpretation overlooks the existing relationship between the design, production, operating and maintenance rules in Title 14, Code of Regulations (14 CFR). Ignoring the independent nature of individual rules – such as part 39 – disregards the regulatory structure and creates conflicting requirements and considerable confusion. When applied as intended, the rules provide a logical means to address unsafe conditions in both new products and operating aircraft.

ARSA further argues that agency rules must be clear on their face and should not require FAA interpretation; ADs should be understandable to the person who will perform the required action.

The association ultimately asked for a withdrawal of the April 14 interpretation or, alternatively, that the FAA revise the interpretation to acknowledge the totality of the agency’s rules by recognizing the roles of design, production, operation and maintenance on compliance with part 39.

To see all the ways ARSA is working as the voice of the aviation maintenance industry, visit the ARSA Works page.



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