Regulatory Brief -- FAA issues regulatory changes for certificated repair stations

Regulatory Brief

FAA proposes significant regulatory changes for repair stations

The issue:

On August 6, 2001, the FAA issued its final rule with changes to 14 CFR §145 (Part 145), the regulations governing certification of aircraft repair stations. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) published in June 1999 proposed an extensive rewrite of Part 145.

The importance to our members:

AOPA is concerned that the FAA has taken a "one size fits all" approach to the new regulations by attempting to standardize the operation of all repair stations. In the rulemaking, the FAA had proposed significantly higher standards for smaller GA-oriented repair stations. Under the new rules, most small repair stations will be faced with considerably higher operating expenses. Ultimately, the burden of these higher operating costs will have to be shouldered by aircraft owners and operators who use Part 145 certificate repair stations in the form of higher maintenance costs. AOPA is also concerned that the required advisory circular guidance and FAA training regarding the rule will not be completed before the rule's effective date, which will contribute to even higher maintenance costs.

Significant provisions:

In the NPRM:

Some of the major FAA proposals were -

  • Addition of the "Job Functions" section to Appendix A
  • Requirement for a Quality Assurance program (not to be confused with a Quality Control program)
  • New Class Rating system
  • Increased regulation of repair stations facilities and equipment, including shop equipment, ventilation, lighting, and temperature control
  • Dedicated storage/assembly facility requirements
  • Permanent record keeping requirements
  • Increased employee training requirements
  • Development of an extensive quality control system
  • Monitoring and surveillance of outside contractors/parts manufacturers/suppliers
  • Reporting of a defect or unairworthy condition
  • FAA approval of changes of location, housing, or facilities

In the Final Rule:

The FAA did not adopt the following major NPRM proposals -

  • Appendix A - Job functions
  • Requirement for a Quality Assurance program
  • New Class Rating system (reserved for future FAA rulemaking consideration)

The FAA significantly modified these major NPRM proposals:

  • Assembly Space. Though the FAA is requiring that the repair station provide suitable permanent housing for the largest type and model of aircraft listed on its operations specifications, it will not require it to provide housing for at least one of the heaviest aircraft within the weight class of the rating it seeks.
  • Changes of Location, Housing, or Facilities. Only those changes that will have a significant effect on the repair station's ability to perform maintenance will need approval.
  • Equipment and Materials Requirement. Only those tools and parts for work being done need to be on the premises and under full control. This will allow the smaller CRS to rent or lease tools on an "as needed" basis.
  • Personnel Requirements. Only requires a repair station to have a sufficient number of employees for the work being performed.
  • Supervisory and Inspection Personnel. Only supervisors employed by a repair station located outside of the U.S. must meet these rule provisions. The FAA agreed that the intent of this provision for maintenance supervisors working for a repair station located within U.S. is already addressed elsewhere in the FARs and, thus, is redundant.
  • Contract Maintenance. Requires that the repair station must ensure that non-certificated maintenance personnel who perform maintenance under contract follow a quality control system that is equivalent to the system followed by the repair station contracting the work.

The FAA did not significantly modify these major NPRM proposals:

  • Reports of Defects or Unairworthy Condition. Reporting the name and address of the operator is not required. However, reporting of the aircraft registration number is now required. The net effect is essentially the same as the NPRM.
  • Application for Certificate. A list by type, make or model of each article for which the application is being made. The FAA felt that this wording was broader while retaining the intended scope of the provision.

AOPA position:

AOPA maintained that the proposed changes to 14 CFR Part 145 would place a significant economic burden upon smaller GA-oriented repair stations. This increased operating cost would undoubtedly have to be passed on to the aviation consumer. AOPA contends that the proposed rule could not be applied uniformly to all repair stations without causing severe economic hardship for smaller facilities and that a "one size fits all" approach simply doesn't work.

The final rule, though far from ideal, reflects many of AOPA's comments and recommendations that were designed to significantly reduce the economic burden and address the needs of the smaller repair stations. AOPA now estimates that the average additional cost of compliance for smaller repair stations will be not more than 5% of a smaller repair station's revenue, down from the 30% estimate that was based on the NPRM.

Per the rule, repair shops must develop and submit manuals to the FAA and have FAA approval prior to the rule's implementation date. Also, the FAA must publish an advisory circular guidance document and complete internal training prior to the rule's implementation date. Though the draft advisory circular has been published for public comment, AOPA believes that the FAA will not be able to complete both the required advisory circular guidance and its employee training before the current implementation date of the rule. AOPA also believes that any manuals submitted or approved before necessary guidance and training is completed will have to undergo substantial revisions that burden the repair shops with additional costs that will be passed on to our members. AOPA has sent a letter to the FAA reflecting this concern and is asking that the FAA postpone implementation until such time as both the guidance and training is complete.

Status:

  • December 2, 1999 - AOPA reviewed the rulemaking proposal and issued comments to the FAA. Members were urged to share their comments on the proposed rule with the FAA.
  • July 26, 2001 - AOPA presented oral arguments to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget as to the NPRM's overly burdensome economic impact on small repair stations.
  • August 6, 2001 - Final Rule published in the Federal Register. Members were also urged to share their comments on the final rule with the FAA and to submit comments to: Docket Management System, U.S. Department of Transportation, Room Plaza 401, 400 Seventh Street, SW., Washington, DC 20590-0001, or via the internet at http://dms.dot.gov. Reference Docket No. FAA-1999-5836 on the correspondence.
  • November 5, 2002 - AOPA sends a letter to the FAA requesting final rule implementation postponement until such time as both the require advisory circular and FAA training is completed. This letter is also sent in support of a petition requesting postponement.
  • November 7, 2002 - FAA publishes the 69-page draft advisory circular AC 145-MAN with public comments due November 22, 2002 - only 11 working days.

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