FAA to Cancel C.A.S.E. OpSpec Guidance
On Nov. 16, the FAA agreed with ARSA and the Aircraft Electronics Association in determining its new OpSpec D090 for Repair Stations was not supported by a regulatory requirement. The two associations had delivered an Oct. 31 letter (see below) to the agency requesting withdrawal of Notice 8900.679, “Part 145 Repair Stations and New OpSpec D090, Coordinating Agency for Supplier Evaluation (C.A.S.E.).”
“Any request for OpSpec D090 from a Part 145 repair station should be denied, with the explanation that Part 145 repair stations can voluntarily participate in the C.A.S.E program if they choose to include it as part of their quality control system,” the FAA has instructed aviation safety inspectors. The agency indicated it will cancel Notice 8900.679 as well as sections from Volumes 3 and 6 of Order 8900.1; it will also revise Order 8900.1 Vol. 3, Ch. 18, Sec. 10 to remove information regarding D090.
Questions regarding the change can be directed to the Aircraft Maintenance Division Repair Station Section.
Previously on OpSpecs...
October 31, 2023
On Oct. 31, ARSA and the Aircraft Electronics Association delivered a letter to the FAA requesting immediate withdrawal of Notice 8900.679, “Part 145 Repair Stations and New OpSpec D090, Coordinating Agency for Supplier Evaluation (C.A.S.E.).”
The notice introduced a new operations specifications paragraph for part 145 repair stations. The paragraph, D090, would be issued to certificate holders that are “seeking authorization to use a C.A.S.E. audit in their [quality control system].” The associations noted that such authorization has no regulatory basis, as §§ 145.201(a)(2) and 145.217(b) create no requirements for use of specific audit methodologies and mandate no membership in any related program.
“The limitations imposed by [§ 145.5’s requirement that repair stations operate in compliance with their operations specifications] require the FAA be judicious in the creation of OpSpecs paragraphs,” ARSA and AEA said. “Despite the guidance in Order 8900.1, which has defined multiple paragraphs as “mandatory,” the only ones supported by the regulations are A003, ‘Ratings and Limitations’ and A449, ‘Drug and Alcohol Testing Program’.”
The associations underscored the expansive use of operations specifications paragraphs that are convenient to the agency, but not required by the regulations. To address the related burden on agency and industry personnel, the letter referenced a recommendation by the ARAC Part 145 Working Group – which is co-chaired by ARSA Executive Director Sarah MacLeod and AEA Vice President of Government & Industry Affairs Ric Peri – to review and remove any OpSpecs paragraphs that are not safety limitations.
To read the joint letter, click here.
December 17, 2020
FAA-certificated repair stations in the United Kingdom need to be aware that the next certificate renewal will bring a change to Operations Specifications paragraphs A101 and D107. The FAA Aircraft Maintenance Division issued Notice 8900.574 through the agency’s Flight Standards Information Management System (FSIMS; Order 8900.1) to inspectors assigned to repair stations located within the UK requiring the “non-mandatory revision” to the paragraphs when “the next new amendment is needed.”
This internal “requirement” for the “non-required” change to the Air Agency certificate ignores the fact that operations specifications paragraphs are not separate from the air agency certificate. Any change to the operations specifications paragraphs equates to a change to the repair station certificate issued by the agency under § 145.53(a). When a change is initiated by the certificate holder it should follow the requirements of § 145.57(a). When changes to a repair station certificate are made by the agency, the certificate holder should be made aware of them through appropriate due process measures.
Unfortunately, the changes to operations specifications paragraphs are not handled based upon the regulations. Rather, “policy” for “non-mandatory” changes are initiated regularly as the agency adjusts the language in its internal “automated operations specifications” system. That automated system, with its “mandatory standard” language ignores the legal niceties; it does not differentiate between “operations specifications and limitations as are necessary in the interest of safety” from those paragraphs issued for FAA convenience or internal administrative purposes. For example, paragraphs A101 and A107 are not “necessary in the interest of safety,” they merely help the agency administer its programs by providing information already required of the certificate holder by the regulations. By failing to adhere to the plain language of the regulations that make operations specifications part and parcel of the repair station certificate, the agency has included language in those paragraphs that inadvertently place “limitations” on the certificate holder with no safety justification whatsoever.
While these “non-mandatory” changes that must take place when the foreign repair station certificate is renewed may not create a situation where the air agency certificate was inadvertently limited without a safety justification, the fact remains that a casual announcement to the aviation safety inspector workforce only is not the way to comply with the plain language of the regulations. The association lead the charge (see below) on recommending changes to how operations specifications paragraphs are handled to ensure those created for non-safety-based needs could be clearly distinguished from those that deliberately limit a particular certificate holder because of a documented and substantiated safety necessity. While the agency continues to ignore the industry’s reasonable request, the association remains hopeful that the matter is taken seriously at some time in the future.
In the meantime, repair station certificate holders should understand that “signing” the “new” operations specifications at the agency’s behest equates to a voluntary surrender of the previous repair station certificate and acceptance of whatever limitations come with the new operations specifications paragraphs. The association is aware of times that changes have been made to operations specifications creating substantive limitations on certificate holders in this casual manner.
|FSIMS: Revision to Repair Station OpSpecs A101 and D107 in Preparation for UK-EU Transition
|The Aircraft Maintenance Division has revised OpSpecs A101 and D107 due to the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union (EU), commonly known as Brexit. The UK withdrew from the EU on January 31, 2020. On January 1, 2021, the Maintenance Implementation Procedures (MIP) becomes effective with the UK.
April 18, 2018
On April 13, a coalition of aviation industry organizations delivered a letter to the FAA seeking objective criteria for adding and reviewing paragraphs to any certificate holder’s operations specifications.
The letter was coordinated by ARSA and sent to Flight Standards Service Executive Director John Duncan. It described a series of issues related to the government’s failure to differentiate between air carrier and air agency certificates in applying operations specifications paragraphs. The signatories noted that the agency lacks defined standards for the working group advising on promulgation of these paragraphs under 14 CFR part 119, which includes air carriers and commercial operators, but does not seek any kind of industry input from repair stations or other air agency certificate holders.
The timing of the group’s submission takes advantage of language in this year’s omnibus appropriations bill signed into law in March. The legislation included a provision restricting the FAA from promulgating any operations specification, policy or guidance that imposes more burdensome restrictions than those defined in the rules. The letter was delivered “to assist the agency in complying with the congressional mandate.”
Specifically, the letter suggests the agency establish a committee of government and industry personnel that would review the FAA’s management of operations specifications for every type of certificate holder. The regulatory experts on the new body would establish criteria for promulgation of new paragraphs and review existing ones to ensure currency and consistency with specified regulations.
“The legislative language was a helpful reference for encouraging the agency to act,” said ARSA Executive Director Sarah MacLeod, noting how the provision in the spending bill coincided with an already-developing effort to address the issues outlined in the letter. “The truth is that the regulators shouldn’t need Congress to tell them to apply objective standards. Regardless of what the law says, the FAA can and should coordinate with the industry to make sense of how it applies operations specifications paragraphs.”
To read the full letter, click here.
In addition to ARSA, the letter was signed by:
Aircraft Electronics Association
Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association
Airlines for America
Aviation Suppliers Association
Aviation Technician Education Council
General Aviation Manufacturers Association
Helicopter Association International
Modification and Replacement Parts Association
National Air Carrier Association
National Air Transportation Association
Regional Airline Association
The Boeing Company
Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation
MOOG Aircraft Group
January 17, 2013
Members of the Consistency of Regulatory Interpretation Aviation Rulemaking Committee (CRI ARC) have notified FAA Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety Margaret Gilligan of the group’s findings that changes and amendments to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Operations Specifications (OpSpecs) often serve as a proxy for rulemaking or regulation.
The CRI ARC closely studied OpSpecs language to develop an effective method for identifying, reviewing, and improving this essential regulatory and oversight tool.
“With the need for more efficiency in the administration of aviation safety compliance, we urge your attention to the methodology used to identify effective actions for improvement in this area,” the committee stated.
The CRI ARC noted that the proliferation of OpSpecs changes creates inconsistent application and confusion among operators. Due to this confusion, the committee recommends that FAA periodically review the reasons for each OpSpecs paragraph as well as:
- Remove OpSpecs with redundant regulatory requirements, i.e., those that merely repeat regulatory language
- Ensure that OpSepcs clearly delineate between—
- A safety requirement that must be followed by the certificate holder (and can be appealed if disagreement surfaces); and
- A data collection activity for FAA internal or external use, which is used as a convenient method of holding information, but is not “required to be followed” in the interest of safety.
“OpSpecs should not be used as proxies for rulemakings,” stated ARSA Executive Director Sarah MacLeod. “Curtailing amendments and other changes to OpSpecs eliminates the potential for circumventing the rulemaking process and provides greater clarity. To this end, much like the CRI ARC recommendations issued late last year, we believe that less is more.”
The committee’s findings follow its November 2012 primary recommendations: the FAA should review all guidance documents and interpretations, identify and cancel outdated material, and cross-reference (electronically link) material to the applicable rule.
A link to the letter is available here.