November 26, 2002
In a letter to the head of flight standards, AOPA has asked the FAA to rescind recent changes to its policy regarding approval of routine major aircraft alterations/repairs, better known as field approvals. The policy changes are being interpreted by many FAA inspectors as more limiting than the previous policy, meaning fewer field approvals and more delays and bureaucratic red tape. That is making the field approval process impractical.
Aircraft owners tell AOPA that flight standards district offices (FSDOs) all over the country are balking at signing off routine field approvals for things such as wing-tip strobes, conversions to alternators from generators, and conversion of drum to disc brakes not already covered by an STC. AOPA has even experienced the problem firsthand with its Waco Sweepstakes aircraft. AOPA's maintenance shop was denied a field approval to install improved brakes on the 1939 Waco.
The FAA issued the new policy on September 13 and publicly stated that the changes were intended to improve field approval service in all parts of the country. It has had the quite opposite effect.
The change was especially problematic in Alaska, where operators rely on important field approvals to modify aircraft to meet the demands of an extreme operating environment.
Thankfully, the FAA got the message loud and clear in meetings held there last week and has agreed to rescind the change in Alaska.
"In our letter we ask the FAA to also rescind the policy in the 'Lower 48' as well," said AOPA Vice President Melissa K. Bailey. "The bottom line is that the problems that surfaced in Alaska are being felt nationwide, and it is increasingly more difficult for owners to get field approvals."
General aviation operators nationwide rely on field approvals to safely enhance their operations and safely maintain their aging aircraft. Rescinding the recent policy changes will restore the FAA's field approval service.
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