Ending Maintenance Manual Rule Enforcement Inconsistency
On July 9, President Biden issued an Executive Order (“Promoting Competition in the American Economy”) establishing a whole-of-government policy to address overconcentration, monopolization and unfair competition in the American economy. Agency heads are directed to consider and address the impact of regulations on industries under their jurisdiction.
In a July 30 letter to FAA Administrator Steve Dickson and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, ARSA Executive Vice President Christian A. Klein urged them to end FAA’s inconsistent enforcement of its maintenance manual (i.e., instructions for continued airworthiness or ICA) rules as part of the EO implementation plan.
14 CFR § 21.50(b) and its predecessors require design approval holders (DAH) to prepare information essential to continued airworthiness and “make [it] available” to persons required to comply with the terms of those instructions. Owners are required to ensure the information is followed; certain maintenance providers are required to possess and/or perform maintenance in accordance with it.
Notwithstanding the clear language and safety intent of § 21.50(b) and predecessor requirements, some DAH’s have refused to make ICA available and the FAA fails to enforce these obligations. However, the agency has vigilantly enforced the requirement that those performing maintenance possess and follow the manufacturer’s instructions (see §§ 43.13, 145.51 and 145.109).
“By allowing DAHs to withhold regulatorily-required information from potential competitors (whether through outright denial, licensing schemes, or economically impractical prices), the FAA is complicit in extending the government-induced monopoly on required replacement parts and limiting competition in maintenance services,” Klein said.
The victims are not only repair stations (the majority of which are small and medium-size entities), but also the general and commercial operators (and their passengers and customers) who rely on repair stations and independent mechanics to keep aircraft airworthy. Given that some of the offenders are foreign DAHs, FAA’s enforcement policy also disadvantages U.S. companies seeking to compete internationally.”
ARSA has fought for decades to improve access to maintenance data (a detailed history of its work over the past 20 years is available on the ICA issue page). Given the FAA’s lack of action, the association is raising the visibility of the issue among senior administration officials and members of Congress. ARSA members wishing to become involved in these activities should contact the association.
To read ARSA’s letter, click here.