Mrs. Jane Garvey
Federal Aviation Administration
800 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20591
Dear Administrator Garvey:
I know from our past discussions that you appreciate how important it is for both government and industry to cooperate in achieving the safety objectives we all strive for. And we are pleased that during your administration we have been able to work together so effectively to this end. It is in this spirit that we request your personal intervention in a matter of serious consequence to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) and its members. We also ask that you consider that this specific matter may be symptomatic of an unfortunate tendency on the part of some in the FAA to bypass the opportunity for public input and cooperation in favor of unilateral final action on matters that substantially impact the aviation public.
It has come to our attention that the FAA is about to issue an airworthiness directive (AD) as a final rule, that is without the usual prior public notice and opportunity for comment afforded under the informal rulemaking procedures of the Administrative Procedure Act. We ask that you prevent or withdraw the issuance of this final rule in favor of a notice of proposed rulemaking. We ask this so that AOPA; our members, many who own and fly the affected aircraft; and others in the aviation community will have the opportunity for input into this rulemaking. In this manner, the agency will have the benefit of these comments before making a final decision. In this matter many of those prepared to file comments have far more operational and maintenance experience with the Cessna exhaust situation than is available to the FAA presently.
This AD is expected to affect the exhaust systems on thousands of Cessna Model 300/400 series airplanes and is reported to require extraordinarily expensive and burdensome disassembly and inspection requirements. The safety concerns to be addressed in this AD are well known to your administration and appreciated by the affected aircraft owners and operators. They were addressed in manufacturer’s bulletins beginning as early as 1975. An airworthiness directive was issued by the FAA that same year (AD 75-23-08) and subsequently amended. These very same concerns were the subject of recommendations to the FAA from the National Transportation Safety Board in 1986 and 1996. And they were the subject of a 1996 FAA special airworthiness information bulletin sent to all affected aircraft owners. Please understand, this is not a new safety issue. The manufacturer, the government, and the affected owners and operators have addressed it on a continuing basis, and it continues to be addressed.
You can appreciate that the specific requirements, now unknown, which will be imposed on our members are a matter of serious consequence. They want the opportunity to review and comment on these specifics, and they want the opportunity to have you consider their comments, before you make a final decision. This opportunity is afforded to them in the informal rulemaking requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act. These important opportunities can be short-circuited only if the FAA has “good cause” for finding that the notice and comment procedures are impractical, unnecessary, or contrary to the public interest. It is hard for us to understand how the FAA could make such a finding when this has been a matter under consideration by the administration and others for so long. While we are appreciative of the safety issues involved, we know of no immediate and compelling event warranting this precipitous action.
In the spirit of fostering your own initiative of “government/industry cooperation” so necessary to aviation safety, we ask that you personally intervene to transform this threatened Cessna AD into a notice of proposed rulemaking.
June 24, 1999