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ARSA Asks FAA For Clarifications On New Drug/Alcohol Rule Guidance

ARSA in a letter dated Aug. 30 (.pdf) has asked the FAA to clarify several issues raised in guidance supporting the drug & alcohol (D&A) program testing rule, including definitions of maintenance that conflict with other rules and guidance.

For example, FAA’s D&A guidance, released Aug. 15, says that cleaning seat covers is not maintenance. The agency’s rationale: cleaning is a part of the overhaul process and because the overhaul, and not its individual elements, constitutes maintenance, cleaning is not maintenance.

ARSA argued that while an overhaul is maintenance, the fact that cleaning occurs during an overhaul has nothing to do with whether it is maintenance. For instance, inspection is part of an overhaul, but it is clearly defined as maintenance in Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) section 1.1.

“The reason that many maintenance providers and FAA inspectors believe that cleaning seat covers (and other internal fabric) constitutes maintenance is that cleaning must be made part of the maintenance record required by 14 CFR section 43.9,” ARSA explained.

“Further, if the fabric is cleaned improperly, it affects the flammability requirements (i.e., the article will not be returned to the condition required by section 43.13(b)),” ARSA added.

“As such,” ARSA reasoned, “cleaning would be maintenance not because it is part of an overhaul, but because the provider must comply with part 43 when performing the activity.”

The bottom line: “We are deeply concerned that these [guidance] documents will fundamentally alter the definition of maintenance,” the Association said.

The FAA’s guidance also discusses a manufacturer that performs a test on a component to determine whether repairs are necessary. According to the guidance, because “the testing standard may be part of an inspection requirement in the technical data used in the testing process,” this constitutes maintenance.

ARSA noted that a manufacturer can perform maintenance under section 43.3 “if it also possesses a repair station certificate or employs persons certificated under part 65.” The agency’s example doesn’t make it clear that this is the case.

ARSA also asked for clarification of whether, as noted in the FAA guidance, a company with multiple repair stations must register with the FAA’s Drug Abatement division if it wishes to have one D&A testing program covering all repair station locations.

“Is the FAA now saying that a company with multiple repair station certificates must register with the Drug Abatement Division if it elects to have a single program covering all of its entities?” ARSA asked. “It seems to us that paragraph A449 [of the repair station’s Operations Specifications] can also be used in this situation. This issue is important to ARSA members, as current industry practice for verifying a repair station’s Drug & Alcohol testing compliance is by asking for a copy of its paragraph A449.

Since the new D&A rule’s compliance date, Oct. 10, 2006, is so close, the Association asked the FAA to expedite its response “to ensure that the industry has clear and useful guidance as it attempts to comply” with the regulation.

The interpretation request is ARSA’s second in the last two months related to the D&A rule. Answers to the questions posed in ARSA’s July 18 request were provided in the Aug. 15 guidance.

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