Industry Presses FAA on ICA
On Dec. 27, representatives of 14 aviation industry associations urged FAA Administrator Steve Dickson to act on the agency’s enforcement of rules related to instructions for continued airworthiness (ICA).
The group, which included ARSA and many of its long-standing allies, delivered a letter requesting the administrator assign the matter to the Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee (ARAC). A draft ARAC tasking provided with the letter directs a study of the issue and requests a report with recommendations to address regulatory concerns.
The letter highlighted President Biden’s July 9, 2021 Executive Order (EO) “Promoting Competition in the American Economy.” Moving forward on ICA would uphold the FAA’s responsibility under the EO’s whole-of-government policy to consider and address the impact of its regulations on the industry. Aviation safety rules have long required design approval holders (DAH) to prepare ICA and make them available. The agency has been slow to enforce these obligations but has vigilantly imposed requirements that maintenance be done in accordance with instructions that are often constructively unavailable.
“The lack of clear guidance regarding DAH obligations has led to the proliferation of practices that are inconsistent with the language and intent of ICA requirements, including absolute refusals to provide data, onerous licensing policies, and economically impractical pricing,” the letter said. “The situation negatively impacts many categories of regulated stakeholders…In establishing its rules, the agency determined that access to and possession of ICA is important to safety. However, FAA’s nebulous enforcement regime represents a weak link in the airworthiness chain.”
To read the full letter, click here.
To review the draft ARAC tasking delivered with the letter, click here.
In addition to ARSA, the letter was supported by the following organizations:
Aircraft Electronics Association
Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association
Airlines for America
Aviation Suppliers Association
Aviation Technician Education Council
Cargo Airline Association
Helicopter Association International
Modification and Replacement Parts Association
National Air Carrier Association
National Air Transportation Association
National Business Aviation Association
Professional Aviation Maintenance Association
Regional Airline Association
August 3, 2021
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.