Since its inception, ARSA has worked to ensure that basic safety information (i.e., Instructions for Continued Airworthiness [ICA], including component maintenance manuals [CMM]) is made available at a fair and reasonable price to operators, maintenance providers, and any other person required by 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) to comply with those instructions.
Title 14 CFR § 21.50(b) requires holders of design approvals to prepare information essential to continued airworthiness (euphemistically, ICA) and “make it available” to persons required to comply with the terms of the instructions. Under part 91, owners are required to ensure the information is followed and recorded; under part 43, maintenance providers are required to perform maintenance and record maintenance in accordance with the information.
Notwithstanding the clear language of § 21.50(b), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been slow to enforce the DAHs’ obligation. On the other hand, the agency has vigilantly enforced the requirement that those performing maintenance do so in accordance with the ICA (see §§ 43.13, 145.51 and 145.109).
The association has taken numerous steps to combat this “double standard” of enforcement. Notably, ARSA took aim at the FAA and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in an attempt to hold the agencies accountable for the enforcement anomaly. Between 2003 and 2008, ARSA filed four complaints with the aviation authorities. While EASA’s response acknowledged the type certificate (TC) holders’ obligation to provide ICA to persons required to comply, including repair stations holding EASA approvals, it stopped short of taking any action. The FAA has yet to respond to the complaints and ARSA has formally withdrawn one for staleness.
Two recently-released FAA documents are a step in the right direction and, in certain circumstances, assists repair stations to obtain ICA—
- In 2009, ARSA asked the FAA to issue an interpretation that CMMs referenced in the Airworthiness Limitations section (ALS) of the ICA were part of the ICA. In August 2012, the FAA responded, confirming that all CMMs referenced in an ALS are part of the ICA and that modifications to the ALS trigger § 21.50(b) requirements. The ALS and any changes must be made available to properly rated repair stations that need to comply with the ALS. However, the FAA declined to extend CMM availability to all properly rated repair stations absent a statement of need (e.g., possession of component, contract, work order), thus ignoring the absolute requirement in 14 CFR 43.16.
- A March 29, 2012 FAA ICA Policy (PS-AIR-21.50-01) addressed “prohibitions” on distribution. Specifically, it states that “the FAA will not accept restrictive statements or terms in ICA documents, or restrictive access or use agreements that limit the appropriate availability or use of the ICA.” The policy makes it inappropriate for DAHs to distinguish the use of the ICA between the product owner and the maintenance provider, or place any limitations on such use. While this policy was certainly a step in the right direction, it did not include many ARSA recommendations that would have aligned the proposed policy with existing regulations.
The legal interpretation and ICA policy were important steps in the continued fight to ensure the availability of safety information. But, it remains to be seen whether the FAA will give teeth to the policy and/or interpretation by taking enforcement measures against DAHs who fail to provide the necessary information upon request.
Other International Efforts
In September 2009, EASA issued the Terms of Reference (ToR) task MDM.056, relating to the issues surrounding instructions for Continuing Airworthiness (ICA). The ToR established a working group, which continues to work on the task.
The initial meeting of the working group took place at the end of 2009, the result of which was a workshop held in January 2010 to receive feedback from industry and national authorities (ARSA contributed as a participant in the workshop). After the workshop was held, three more working group meetings were held; among the participants in these meetings were EASA, the FAA, Transport Canada Civil Aviation (TCCA), the European Union (EU) National Aviation Authorities (NAAs) and several industry participants including manufacturers, airlines, and maintenance organizations.
In January 2011, the working group was put on hold until EASA, FAA and TCCA held a specific meeting to determine a harmonized approach to the issue. Several meetings took place, after which a Status Report was published on March 10, 2012. In June 2012 industry and EU NAAs were informed about the outcome of these agency meetings at the 2012 US/Europe International Aviation Safety Conference.
The report offers the following definition of ICA:
“Instructions for Continuing Airworthiness are the instructions and information that are necessary for the continued airworthiness of the aircraft, engine, propeller, parts and appliances, which must be developed and/or referenced by the Design Approval Holder in accordance with the applicable Certification Basis or Standard.”
One notable section of the report states that “It was clear for EASA, FAA and TCCA that as soon as a certain document (such as a Component Maintenance Manual), or part of the document is referred in the ICA, it becomes an ICA,” after which the report called for more guidance to support this conclusion. Despite this mention of CMMs in the report, CMMs are not considered an issue of common interest, and are ultimately left to the agencies to deal with for themselves. The report goes on to address each agency’s current understanding and status of a number of other issues related to ICA.
The report concludes with a recitation of the steps to be taken during “Phase 2.” It identifies five subtasks of issues of common interest for each agency to address: (1) definition and identification of ICA, (2) availability of ICA, (3) MRB scheduling information, (4) acceptance/approval of ICA by other than the authority, and (5) performing a review of the validation process for ICA approved/accepted by another authority (within the existing bilateral agreement activities). The report clarifies that EASA, FAA and TCCA already have pre-agreed positions on each of these subtasks, and that the goal of the working group is to provide harmonization to those positions. That harmonization seeks to assure coordination of any activity falling into these issues of common interest.
So what happens now?
On May 15, 2013 ToR Issue 4 for MDM.056 was released, along with a document publishing the rulemaking group compositions for subtasks 1, 2, 4 and 5 (discussed above). The ToR explains the next steps by outlining the issue and reason for regulatory change, stating the objectives, designating specific tasks for the rulemaking process, detailing the profile and contributions of the rulemaking group, and identifying the affected regulations and decisions.
Resources for Members
ICA Primer, Part 1. ARSA Managing Director & General Counsel and Obadal, Filler, MacLeod & Klein Managing Member Marshall Filler provides an overview of the regulatory basis for ICA, including what documents are considered ICA and the obligations of design approval holders to prepare and make them available under 14 CFR § 21.50(b). The webinar also covers the regulations that apply to repair stations and other maintenance providers regarding the use of ICA and their availability.
ICA Primer, Part 2. This encore session, also presented by Filler, explains the importance of ICAs and ARSA’s regulatory objectives. It describes various design approval holder practices that affect the availability and use of ICA, some of which have regulatory implications and discusses the latest FAA guidance and the efforts of the joint EASA-FAA-TCCA working group to clarify and harmonize the pertinent regulatory requirements.
ICA Flowchart (Coming Soon!). This diagram assists repair stations trying to obtain ICA.
ARSA Works ICA Timeline
November 5, 2014: FAA releases a legal interpretation responding to a letter asking whether the provisions in 14 CFR § 21.50(b) require design approval holders (DAH) to furnish complete Instructions for Continued Airworthiness (ICA) to the owner of each type aircraft, engine, or propeller apply to the Lockheed Martin C-l 30J aircraft operated by NAVAIR.
FAA legal interpretation
March 31, 2014: FAA releases a legal interpretation in response to a Piedmont Propulsion Systems request regarding the responsibilities of a DAH to make ICA available for mandatory inspections and repairs.
FAA legal interpretation
April 19, 2013: ARSA sends a letter to two members of the European Parliament commending their recent inquiries to the European Commission regarding original equipment manufacturers making maintenance manuals available to MROs.
October 4, 2012: The Supreme Court decides not hear ICA case.
August 9, 2012: FAA responds to three-year old ARSA request for legal interpretation, confirms that all CMMs referenced in an ALS are part of the ICA and that modifications to the ALS trigger § 21.50(b) requirements.
FAA legal interpretation
June 11, 2012: ARSA asks Supreme Court to intervene on ICA availability.
Amicus curiae brief
March 29, 2012: FAA releases ICA policy stating that the agency will “not accept” restrictive statements or terms in ICA documents, or restrictive access or use agreements that limit the appropriate availability or use of the ICA.
March 10, 2012: EASA issues a status report on ICA working group activities.
January 4, 2012: ARSA comments on draft policy.
October 6, 2011: FAA releases draft policy, “Inappropriate Design Approval Holder Restrictions on the Use and Availability of Instructions for Continued Airworthiness”.
January 26, 2010: ARSA delivers joint industry policy committee comments (see Aug. 20, 2004, below) to EASA for consideration.
Email to EASA
September 28, 2009: EASA adds ICA to its Terms of Reference in anticipation of rulemaking.
EASA ICA Terms of reference
May 18, 2009: ARSA requests FAA legal interpretation.
ARSA interpretation request
November 6, 2008: ARSA sends rebuttal to EASA letter.
ARSA rebuttal letter
July 3, 2008: ARSA receives second response from EASA regarding the agency’s position on the availability of maintenance data.
EASA second response
March 5, 2008: ARSA files complaint with EASA on the availability of maintenance manuals.
Rolls-Royce and Airbus EASA complaint
February 29, 2008: ARSA files third complaint with the FAA on the availability of maintenance manuals.
April 18, 2007: ARSA’s files comments to part 145 NPRM, including a request to remove language requiring repair stations to have ICA to become certificated (see page 8).
Part 145 comments
August 3, 2006: ARSA comments on Baker Botts memo regarding ICA strategy options.
June 13, 2006: ARSA-hired law firm delivers memo outlining strategic options for pursuing long-term ICA policy objectives.
Baker Botts Memo
February 28, 2006: Rolls-Royce responds to ARSA complaint.
November 23, 2005: ARSA files second complaint with the FAA on the availability of maintenance manuals.
July 1, 2005: FAA issues Order 8110.54; the Order did not incorporate joint industry policy committee suggestions.
FAA Order 8110.54
August 20, 2004: The ARSA-formed joint industry policy committee, composed of manufacturer, repair station, and air carrier representatives, submit comments to the FAA on draft Order 8110.54, Instructions for Continued Airworthiness Responsibilities, Requirements, and Contents.
Joint industry policy
December 10, 2003: Airbus responds to ARSA complaint.
October 3, 2003: ARSA files first complaint with the FAA on the availability of maintenance manuals.
April 14, 2003: FAA issues legal opinion detailing when component maintenance manuals are considered part of ICA.
FAA/McCurdy legal interpretation
March 30, 2002: Research reveals how other agencies carry out requirements to make maintenance information available.
Other agency actions (.pdf)
January 10, 2001: Research shows that the regulations have long required that ICA be provided.
History of U.S. ICA regulations, 1941-1980
December 13, 1999: FAA issues legal opinion (“the Whitlow Letter”) supporting ARSA’s position that instructions be made available.