Mar. 4 - Bowing to pressure from AOPA and general aviation pilots to fix a broken field approval process, the FAA has issued new standards for inspectors to follow when granting approval for major aircraft alterations.
While it supports the general concept of improving the FAA's field approval process, AOPA plans to monitor how new guidelines the agency issued recently really work to see if they really make the process run more smoothly. Pilots nationwide use field approvals to make major alterations or repairs to their aircraft, such as avionics or wingtip strobe installation, generator-to-alternator or drum-to-disk brake conversions, or landing gear alterations.
"When the FAA changed its field approval policy in May of 2003, it created major problems," said AOPA Senior Vice President of Government and Technical Affairs Andy Cebula. "Instead of standardizing approvals, virtually every inspector was interpreting the new rules differently. It was so bad that AOPA pressured the FAA to suspend the new rules in Alaska, where harsh flying conditions and rugged landing sites make field approvals a necessity."
The FAA went back to the drawing board and has now published Advisory Circular (AC) 43-210. If the system works as planned, then a pilot in Anchorage and another in Kansas City who are having the same piece of equipment installed in the same model aircraft should be able to expect the same outcome, and not be subject to different interpretations by the different flight standards district offices.
"Now we need to see how the new AC affects field approvals," said Cebula. "AOPA continues to work with the FAA to make sure that aircraft operators have easy access to this important process."