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Head’s Up to FAA Repair Stations in UK on OpSpecs Update

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
Issued 12/11/2020
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.

Previously on OpSpecs...

1/17/13 - FAA Rulemaking Committee Recommends OpSpecs Clarity

4/18/2018 - ARSA, Industry Allies Seek Objective Criteria for Operations Specifications

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.

 



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