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AOPA submits comments to proposed new FAR Part 66AOPA submits comments to proposed new FAR Part 66

Federal Aviation Administration
Office of the Chief Counsel
Attn: Rules Docket (AGC-200), Rm. 915G
Docket No. 27863
800 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20591

Gentlemen:

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), representing the aviation interests of more than 340,000 pilots and aircraft owners, submits the following comments to the proposed Revision of Certification Requirements: Mechanics and Repairmen published in the Federal Register for public comment on July 9, 1998. AOPA counts among its membership approximately 20,000 airframe and powerplant mechanic certificate holders. Many of these certificate holders are actively engaged in the maintenance of aircraft for compensation or hire while others exercise the privileges of their certificate primarily for the conduct of maintenance and inspection of their own personal aircraft.

AOPA supports the notion of codifying the various maintenance personnel certification regulations under a separate Part 66. Further, we support the effort to generally review the certification standards for inconsistencies and relevance to current industry practice and technological advancements. However, we feel strongly that this proposal has far exceeded the bounds of being a general review and update to the regulation and has added a level of confusion and complexity that is likely to present significant disruption, economic, and administrative burdens to the aviation industry.

The existing aviation maintenance personnel certification regulations have provided a consistent, understandable, and efficient system for the training and assurance of competency of mechanics, inspectors, and repairmen for over four decades. The effectiveness of these regulations is demonstrated by the extraordinarily low number of petitions for rulemaking or exemption from Part 65 submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) over the past 40 years. To our knowledge there have only been three petitions for rulemaking submitted to Part 65 since 1962. Of these three petitions, two have still not been addressed within the scope of this rulemaking. These are establishment of an avionics and instrument technician certificate and requests for students of Part 147 aviation maintenance training schools to be able to complete the oral and practical tests prior to completing the written tests. Nearly all of the petitions for exemption have focussed on renewal requirements for the inspection authorization (IA) or general eligibility and experience requirements. None of these issues have either been addressed or used by the FAA as justification for this rulemaking proposal.

In our view, the bulk of this rulemaking proposal represents a solution looking for a problem. The FAA appears to have lost sight of the elegant synergy that exists between the current §65.81 General privileges and limitations and the performance regulation of §43.13. Under this synergistic relationship, the exercise of any maintenance privilege on any aircraft (regardless of type certification basis) is predicated upon a combination of training, supervision, or experience. This simple yet comprehensive regulatory structure between Parts 65 and 43 already provides virtually everything that this extremely complex rulemaking proposal endeavors to create through its two-tiered certification of technicians, inspectors, and instructors.

The FAA has identified a number of “issues” in the preamble to the proposed rule that have been used as justification for this rulemaking activity. We believe that the bulk of these justifications are either not relevant to the aviation maintenance environment today or have not been addressed by the proposed rulemaking. Over the past decade there have been considerable changes in the aviation maintenance profession that has rendered much of the original rationale for this proposal obsolete. These points have been addressed at great length in comments submitted to the docket by the National Air Transportation Association (NATA) and the Professional Aviation Maintenance Association (PAMA), so we will not endeavor to repeat them here. However, it does raise the point that since the facts used as supporting rationale behind this rulemaking activity have changed, then the proposal should be substantially reexamined for its relevance and applicability today.

AOPA participated on the Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee (ARAC) working group, an issues group responsible for drafting and submitting the various rulemaking proposals for the revision to the current Part 65. We are dismayed to find that the potentially two most significant points of the ARAC process have not been documented in the preamble to the proposal. First, nowhere is it stated that the proposed rule set forth in this notice was submitted to the FAA without the consensus of ARAC. In fact, there was significant disagreement over this proposal within the aviation industry. A number of major organizations representing large segments of the aviation industry, including AOPA, opposed the draft final rule. Some organizations submitted minority opinions, which under the ARAC process are supposed to be reflected in the preamble of any proposed rule. None of this has been documented in Notice No. 98-5.

Further, at no point in the preamble is it mentioned that the primary if not sole motivator for the two-tiered certification process (which raises so much opposition) came strictly from labor union representatives. These labor unions ardently sought a second certificate for the common practice of seeking increased monetary benefit at the collective bargaining table from the added rating. The issue was not a deficiency in training and experience of maintenance personnel at the major air carriers or the technological differences between Part 25 and Part 23 aircraft as stated in the preamble. AOPA strongly urges the FAA to completely and fairly reexamine the entire rulemaking proposal with a view toward meeting the actual needs of the aviation industry as a whole. We believe that the existing certification, proficiency, and currency processes for aviation maintenance personnel are not broken and do not require a complete overhaul. We do, however, recognize that certain aspects of the aviation maintenance training curriculum requires updating, and there may in fact be a need to increase the amount of classroom time it takes to present this new information. However, AOPA maintains that this training or experience should be applied to all future aviation maintenance personnel regardless of the type certification basis of the equipment they work on.

The following is a section-by-section response to the proposed new Part 66, Revision of Certification Requirements: Mechanics and repairmen:

Subpart A—General

§66.1 Applicability.

AOPA is strongly opposed to the proposal to create two levels of certification for aviation maintenance personnel. In our view, the distinction between the AMT and AMT(T) ratings is unjustified and impractical and could ultimately lead to a shortage of qualified aviation maintenance personnel for large segments of general aviation. This is due to the fact that most AMTs would become something of a second-class citizen and could not be hired in the majority of repair stations since maintenance is often performed on the full range of Normal, Utility, Commuter, and Transport category aircraft by these facilities. Further, the burden of ensuring that maintenance personnel are in fact current on Transport category aircraft or equipment falls to the employer, adding new economic burdens that have not been accounted for by the FAA in its cost analysis for this proposed rule.

AOPA will provide more detailed comment on the two-tiered certification proposal in the applicable sections of Subpart C—Aviation Maintenance Technician (Transport). However, we believe that the entire proposal for the AMT(T) should be dropped from Part 66 and all reference to the AMT(T) be removed from each section of the proposed rule.

§66.3 Certification of foreign aviation maintenance personnel.

This section remains unchanged from existing §65.3. AOPA has no additional comment to this section.

§66.5 Application and issue.

This section remains substantively unchanged from existing §65.11 with the exception of a change in terminology from “written” test to “knowledge” test. While the meaning and intent of this change in terminology are understood by previous experience with the relatively recent rewrite of 14 CFR Part 61, nowhere in the regulation, applicable to Part 66, is there any reference to this term. The definition of a knowledge test is not contained in either 14 CFR Part 1 or the proposed Part 66. A knowledge test is in fact defined under 14 CFR Parts 61, 141, and 142 as applicable to each of those parts, however, there is no legal tie to these definitions from proposed Part 66. AOPA recommends that the term “knowledge test” be appropriately set forth and defined in the proposed Part 66.

§66.7 Temporary certificate.

This section has been changed to remove gender references but appears to retain the original intent of existing §65.13. AOPA has no additional comment to this section.

§66.9 Duration of certificates.

This section adds references to the duration of the newly proposed aviation repair specialist issued on the basis of proficiency in a designated specialty area (ARS-I) and the aviation repair specialist certificate issued to an experimental aircraft builder (ARS-III). The duration of these two new certificates is identical to that of the aviation maintenance technician in that they both remain in effect until surrendered, suspended, or revoked. AOPA supports the proposal to develop repair specialist certificates who’s portability is not dependent upon current employment by the certificate holder. In our view, a portable repair specialist certificate will improve the quality and quantity of professionals serving many of the specialized and highly technical functions within the aviation industry not currently served by the aviation maintenance technician. In addition, we believe that the ARS-I issuance should be expanded to include avionics as well.

The balance of the section remains largely unchanged with the aviation repair specialist certificate issued on the basis of employment (ARS-II) remaining substantially the same as the existing repairman certificate under §65.15(b).

§66.11 Display of certificate.

This section consolidates existing §65.89 and §65.105 into a single section applicable to all aviation maintenance personnel. The substance of the proposed rule remains largely unchanged from the existing regulations, and AOPA has no additional comment to this section.

§66.13 Change of name: Replacement of lost or destroyed certificate.

This section proposes two changes that will reduce the administrative burden for those maintenance personnel that need to replace lost or destroyed certificates. First, the FAA is proposing to add the use of facsimile confirmation from the Airman Certification Branch to the existing telegram methods used as proof of original certification. AOPA supports this change since the public generally has widespread access to facsimile technology. However, with the rapid increase in public access to the Internet, AOPA encourages the FAA to contemplate the use of e-mail correspondence as an additional alternative to the telegram and facsimile transmission.

The second proposal increases the period during which maintenance personnel may exercise the privileges of their certificates under a temporary confirmation of original certification sent by the FAA in Oklahoma City. The duration would be increased from 60 to 90 days. AOPA supports this change, particularly in light of the fact that the FAA Airman Certification Branch often suffers from considerable backlogs in processing airman certificate applications and replacements. Increasing the duration of a temporary proof of original certification notice does not address the underlying problem of a failure to process airman information in a timely manner; however, the burden imposed on the airmen by the backlog would be significantly reduced.

§66.15 Change of address.

This section proposes a significant new requirement on aviation maintenance personnel who change their permanent mailing address. Current §65.21 requires aviation maintenance personnel to notify the FAA within 30 days of a change in permanent mailing address. Presumably failure to adhere to the existing regulation and provide notification in a timely manner could provoke some form of administrative action against the airman should such a failure become an issue. However, AOPA is not aware of any instance in which the FAA has enforced this provision in the absence of any other violation or offense. Most importantly, the FAA has not substantiated any risk to aviation safety brought about by the longstanding address change procedure currently in place.

Despite this, the FAA is now proposing that aviation maintenance technicians and repair specialists may not exercise the privileges of their certificate after 30 days from a change in permanent address if notification of the change has not been provided to the FAA. This proposal places the employer of maintenance personnel and the aviation maintenance consumer/customer in an extremely perilous position. Under this proposal, an employer or customer of an aviation maintenance certificate holder must somehow be responsible for ensuring that the home address of record with the FAA is in fact where the maintenance technician or repair specialist lives each and every time maintenance is performed. Failure to accomplish this would risk having all work performed by the individual deemed unairworthy at some later date. Under 49 U.S.C. §44709 aircraft could be grounded pending any investigation and any maintenance and or inspections might have to repeated or verified as airworthy by a second source. Given that literally hundreds of aviation maintenance certificate holders may participate directly or indirectly in the maintenance and upkeep of an aircraft each year, there is no practical means to provide the necessary surveillance this proposal would require. The FAA under this proposal has in no manner addressed the costs associated with attempting to provide the required surveillance under this proposal and the fallout from legal, administrative, and certificate action cases that would inevitably ensue.

AOPA believes this proposal will create significant disruption to the aviation community and will spark an endless chain of legal and enforcement actions for no benefit to aviation safety. Currently, the FAA does not rely upon permanent mailing addresses for the dissemination of safety-related information to aviation maintenance personnel, nor has there been any discussion of using such a means in the future. In fact, the FAA is demonstrating its lack of concern for providing direct sources of this type of information by discontinuing the direct distribution of such safety-related information as the AC 43-16, Airworthiness Alerts, to maintenance personnel and other interested parties. The relatively low-priority desire to have accurate mailing addresses for maintenance personnel in no way warrants the suspension of maintenance certificate privileges and the severe disruption it would cause to the aviation industry. AOPA strongly urges the FAA to withdraw this provision from the proposed rule.

§66.17 Periodic registration.

This section proposes a new requirement for initial and periodic registration of aviation maintenance technicians with the FAA. The FAA’s premise behind this new requirement is to develop “essential demographic information” that would ostensibly enhance safety. A second stated goal is that the FAA is interested in identifying “active” aviation maintenance technicians. The FAA contends that without demographic information, they are unable to provide safety and training information to active mechanics. AOPA strongly disagrees and further points out that changing an address or renewing a FAA-issued medical certificate, which are designed to satisfy the proposed registration requirement, do nothing for determining the “activity” status of maintenance certificate holders.

Provisions already exist in the regulations for maintaining an accurate database of aviation maintenance personnel demographic information. Current §65.21 and proposed §66.15 require notification of a change of address within 30 days of the change, mandating that the airmen keep their FAA records up to date. Some industry and government interests contend that most maintenance personnel fail to comply with the rule, and thus the FAA database has become inaccurate and out of date. AOPA contends that adding a burdensome periodic registration requirement will do nothing to change this pattern. If maintenance personnel cannot remember to change their address when they move, they certainly are not going to remember to do so every four years. In our view, the FAA is suffering from a compliance problem with an existing regulation. Compliance will only be increased if the maintenance community believes that the FAA is serious about pursuing any non-compliance through enforcement action. However, the FAA must bear the burden for this, not the employers and customers of aviation maintenance personnel.

This raises the point that we outlined in our comments to §66.15. Some parties obviously feel that by suspending the privileges of a maintenance certificate for failure to comply with the registration requirement, the database will suddenly become complete. We disagree and believe instead there will be tremendous enforcement fallout from a new requirement that most people simply would not remember to adhere to. If the FAA feels strongly about having an additional periodic update of its maintenance personnel database, then the FAA should take the initiative and responsibility for sending each affected airman a registration notification in the same manner as states notify automobile registrants and licensed drivers of renewal. Each state conducts this type of activity for millions of automobiles and drivers annually. Surely, the FAA could accomplish such a task for 100,000 maintenance personnel every four years. In any event, the responsibility for registration must lie with the FAA and not the individual airman. And under no circumstances can an unintentional failure to register result in a suspension of certificate privileges. AOPA vehemently opposes any change of address, registration, currency, or proficiency requirements that forces the aviation consumer or maintenance employer to verify unavailable maintenance personnel information in order to ensure that the work performed on aircraft is in fact legally airworthy. This proposal accomplishes few, if any, of the objectives outlined in the preamble to the proposed rule and has the potential to create severe disruption to the aviation industry.

§66.21 through §66.29.

These sections remain largely unchanged from the current Part 65. AOPA has no specific comment to these sections.

§66.31 Waivers: Policy and procedures.

AOPA strongly supports the addition of this section, which permits deviation from certain eligibility requirements if the administrator finds that an applicant can safely exercise the privileges of the certificate or rating. This section provides an avenue for potential applicants with certain medical or physical disabilities to serve as productive contributors to the aviation maintenance profession. This section brings the aviation maintenance personnel certification requirements in line with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. AOPA supports the comments to this docket of the Internation Deaf Pilots Association (IDPA).

Subpart B—Aviation Maintenance Technicians.

§66.51 Eligibility requirements: General.

AOPA strongly supports the addition of language permitting the use of qualifying statements and limitations on a maintenance certificate should an applicant not meet one or more of the eligibility requirements. Of greatest concern to us has been the inability of potential maintenance certificate applicants who are deaf, hearing impaired, or speech impaired to meet the requirements for speaking the English language. By permitting the latitude for the administrator to modify or place limitations on an applicant’s certificate, the door has been opened for otherwise well-qualified applicants to engage in careers in aviation maintenance. Further, this removes any language that could have been deemed discriminatory under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

AOPA does not specifically oppose the change of certificate name from Mechanic to Aviation Maintenance Technician, as we do not believe that the change provides any substantive benefit or harm. It does, however, pose a cost associated with changing every reference to an aircraft mechanic in every document, both in government and industry. For the most part, the change seems more bureaucratic than substantive, and there are no links made by the FAA to the enhancement of aviation safety. It is possible that the title change could impart a more professional image of aviation maintenance personnel to the non-flying public, as many seem to hope. For the record, however, nearly all commentary received from AOPA members who currently hold a FAA-issued mechanic certificate with airframe and powerplant ratings has been against the proposed name change. Nearly all have indicated that they like the reference to being a “mechanic” of the whole aircraft and do not like being associated with the image of a task-oriented bench “technician.” To these people, the name change is having an opposite effect from that desired by its proponents. A look back in time shows aviation maintenance personnel titles moving from “engineer” to “mechanic” to “technician.” Many aviation maintenance personnel do not view this as progress toward higher professional standing. Having said this, however, AOPA is neither in favor or opposed to the proposed name change.

§66.53 Ratings.

This section proposes to combine the existing airframe and powerplant ratings on a mechanic certificate into a single “aircraft” rating. While AOPA supports the notion of having a single “aircraft” rating for those maintenance personnel who meet the knowledge and experience requirements for both the airframe and powerplant segments of the certificate, we do not believe that the powerplant rating should be dropped entirely. By deleting the powerplant rating entirely, the FAA and industry are failing to recognize continued specialized knowledge of powerplant mechanics who repair, alter, maintain, and overhaul powerplants of all types, specifically in repair stations and other maintenance facilities. We understand and support the FAA’s attempts to recognize the ever-increasing integration of structure, propulsion, and systems within aircraft and the desire to have the maintenance personnel qualifications mirror that change. However, we do not wish to throw the baby out with the bath water; i.e., delete those things that are serving the industry well, simply for the sake of change. AOPA urges the FAA to consider adding the aircraft and aviation maintenance instructor ratings to the AMT certificate while retaining a separate powerplant rating that has proven to be very useful and successful to the industry. In lieu of this, AOPA recommends that the FAA establish the powerplant rating as being eligible under the ARS-I.

§66.55 Aircraft rating: Knowledge requirements.

In our view, taking a knowledge test on the “relevant provisions of this chapter” is unnecessarily vague. We believe that the former references to Parts 91, 43, and any other regulatory references should be included in the body of this regulatory section and not left solely to advisory material for presentation.

§66.57 Aircraft rating: Experience requirements.

AOPA is opposed to the proposed change in the experience requirements from 30 months to 5,000 hours of practical experience. This change creates a significant administrative burden on applicants wishing to meet the experience requirements based on work experience due to the new requirement to document hours of work. Further, since there has never been a requirement to “log” experience time up to this point, there will be a period of years where few if any applicants will be able to meet or document the required experience. In addition, the proposed change makes it far more difficult, if not impossible, for general aviation aircraft owners or individuals who have spent years restoring aircraft to ever obtain a maintenance certificate.

To this point, the FAA and designated maintenance examiners have demonstrated flexibility and a reasoned approach to addressing the experience requirements for “non-traditional” applicants who do not work full-time in the aviation maintenance field. The FAA even has policies in place for adjusting experience times for individuals who are not engaged in full-time aviation employment. AOPA is not aware of any instance where this flexible approach has caused any safety problem. Yet, the proposal for 5,000 hours of practical experience will forever remove any flexibility for weighing quality of experience over quantity. AOPA is strongly opposed to the proposed change and points out that the administrative burden associated with documenting the hours of experience has not been addressed under this proposal.

§66.59 Aircraft rating: Competency requirements.

AOPA has no specific comment on this section.

§66.61 Certificated aviation maintenance technician school students.

AOPA supports the additional language in §66.61(b) that clearly defines the completion of an aviation maintenance technician school and passing of the knowledge tests required under this subpart as fulfilling all of the knowledge, experience, and competency requirements for the issuance of an AMT certificate.

§66.63 Aircraft rating: Privileges and limitations.

AOPA is opposed to the limitations placed upon the AMT outlined in §66.63(d) restricting work performed on Parts 25 or 29 aircraft by an AMT to preventive maintenance. This proposal has no basis in aviation safety as mechanics with the equivalent of AMT training and experience are conducting maintenance on transport category aircraft safely today.

The two-tiered certification approach proposed by the FAA is fraught with impracticalities that will significantly disrupt the aviation industry. For example, many general aviation maintenance shops are called upon either routinely or at least occasionally to conduct maintenance, inspection, or repair on Transport category aircraft. Should this proposed rule go into effect, there will be few if any maintenance facilities available to provide maintenance to operators of corporate turbine aircraft because they will be either unqualified under this section or will not meet the currency requirements on Part 25 and Part 29 aircraft despite holding an AMT(T) certificate. Corporate aviation in this country would be dramatically inconvenienced by this proposal for no benefit in safety.

Other examples of the complete impracticality of the two-tiered certification system include an examination of the regional air carriers. These Part 121 air carriers would be required to hire AMT(T) certificate holders to approve their aircraft for return to service. Yet, in a matter of months, these certificate holders would not meet the currency and recent experience requirements under this proposal because most of the aircraft in regional air carrier service are not type certificated under Part 25. Rather, they operate Commuter category aircraft that are type certificated under Part 23. After 24 months the air carrier would have no qualified personnel to approve aircraft for return to service.

For yet another example of the short-sighted nature of the two-tier proposal, one need only look to the major flag air carriers and their labor unions who proposed and supported the notion of a “Transport” maintenance certificate. This proposal was motivated by monetary interests and was not driven by any identifiable technical need or safety deficiency. It should be considered by all parties concerned that the vast majority of Transport category aircraft operating in air carrier service today were not type certificated under Part 25 or Part 29 at all. These aircraft were type certificated under CAR 4 or are derivatives of CAR 4 aircraft. The AMT(T) provide no measurable benefit and simply becomes an administrative stumbling block for many air carriers. In fact, under this proposal even some air carriers would be hard pressed to maintain the proposed recent experience requirements for AMT(T) under their employ. AOPA remains adamantly opposed to the addition of an AMT(T) certificate.

AOPA supports the addition of maintenance of a horizontal-card liquid-filled compass as a privilege for the AMT.

§66.65 Aircraft rating: recent experience requirements.

AOPA does not support the proposals for new recurrent training requirements under this section. Many years ago during the development of this notice by ARAC, it was stated that there was a need for regulated recurrent training to keep pace with the “rapidly changing” technology in the aviation maintenance field. Of particular concern at the time to the proponents of mandatory recurrent training were the air carrier and repair station maintenance personnel. It was strongly expressed in ARAC that maintenance personnel engaged in maintaining aircraft used under Part 91 operations were not the primary concern. AOPA finds it incredible then that virtually the only maintenance personnel who will be required to undergo the proposed additional recurrent training are maintenance personnel engaged in Part 91 activities. All other maintenance personnel, who arguably are engaged in the most “rapidly changing” environments of all, are exempt from the new recurrent training requirements due to existing training conducted under Parts 121, 135, and 145.

The justification used by certain interests within ARAC to support the need for recurrent training was that existing training under the operations specifications of Parts 121, 135, and 145 certificate holders was insufficient. Yet, now we have a costly and burdensome new requirement that will apply only to maintenance personnel working on Part 91 aircraft and who are most likely to have to pay for this mandatory training out of their own pockets. They are the lowest-paid employees in the maintenance profession and will likely have to take time off of work to accomplish the training. Neither the cost of the training nor the lost wages have been accounted for by the FAA under this proposal.

Training, either formal or informal, is a constant and ongoing process in the aviation maintenance profession. The aviation maintenance technician is one of the best-informed and well-trained professionals in the various technical specialties. This is evidenced by the very low incidence of maintenance-related accidents, incidents, or failures. AOPA is opposed to a new requirement for recurrent training on the basis that it is unnecessary, does not address a specific need, and is being accomplished on an informal basis every day by the maintenance profession.

AOPA is also concerned with the new sole reliance upon a requalification course for reinstating the privileges of those maintenance personnel who have not met the recent experience and recurrent training requirements of §66.65. We recognize that the requirement for recent experience is not in and of itself new. However, the limitation that only requalification training will be accepted for reestablishing currency is extremely burdensome and unjustified. There is no evidence that the longstanding practice of regaining currency while working for six months under supervision is not working. In fact, it is fundamentally the best way to bring a non-current maintenance certificate holder back into the fold. Working under supervision is far more complete and comprehensive than any course could ever be. AOPA is opposed to the sole reliance upon requalification training as a means for regaining currency, and the FAA has not quantified the cost to non-current maintenance personnel of this new requirement.

§66.67 Aviation maintenance instructor rating: Additional eligibility requirements.

AOPA opposes the requirement for a potential aviation maintenance instructor to “have been actively engaged in maintaining aircraft for at least the two-year period before the date of application.” This proposal would preclude any maintenance manager, supervisor, retiree, or FAA inspector from becoming an aviation maintenance instructor. We feel that this criterion is far too restrictive and should be left to the discretion of the aviation maintenance schools.

§66.69 Aviation maintenance instructor rating: Instructional knowledge and proficiency.

AOPA has no specific comment on this section except to state that we feel this section is unnecessary on the basis that its specific contents are covered by inference in §66.67 and therefore are redundant.

§66.71 Aviation maintenance instructor rating: Privileges and limitations.

The aviation maintenance instructor is an employee of a certificated aviation maintenance school under Part 147. Under the Part 147 certificate, the school is responsible for its program of instruction and conformity to the requirements of Part 147. We do not view the proficiency of an aviation maintenance instructor as being a regulatory matter, but rather an employment issue between the instructor and the school.

§66.73 Aviation maintenance instructor rating: Recent experience requirements.

AOPA does not believe that it is necessary to impose new recent experience requirements on the instructor rating since the instructor is already required to maintain currency on the underlying aviation maintenance technician certificate under §66.65. We believe this places a dual burden on instructors, and particularly inactive instructors, who are actively performing maintenance on aircraft. We maintain that this section should be removed from the proposal entirely.

Subpart C—Aviation Maintenance Technicians (Transport)

As previously stated, AOPA is strongly opposed to multiple levels of certification for aviation maintenance personnel. The proposal for an AMT(T) certificate implements numerous qualifications, recent experience, currency, and privilege restrictions that must be complied with or the certificate reverts to an AMT certificate. Yet the proposal does not delineate how an employer of maintenance personnel or a customer will know that an individual currently may exercise the privileges of an AMT(T) or an AMT. Critically, the proposal fails to identify what happens when an AMT(T) cannot meet the Transport category recent experience requirements and reverts back to an AMT. There is no readily identifiable designation on the certificate to demonstrate this to potential or current employers or customers. Even if there were, there is no requirement for an aviation maintenance technician to display their certificate or any other currency documentation to employers or customers.

AOPA urges the FAA to withdraw the proposal for the two-tiered certification system in its entirety. The owners and operators of aircraft and the entire maintenance community cannot afford to suffer the continual disruption this series of proposals will create.

§66.101 Eligibility requirements: General

AOPA supports the notion that the aviation maintenance training curriculum should reflect the current state of the art in the aviation industry and provide a sound basis for all aviation maintenance personnel regardless of what equipment they maintain. Further, we believe that the focus of the AMT(T) certificate is flawed in its very concept because it is founded on the notion that Transport category aircraft require a higher level of training due to their higher level of complexity. This may have been true 20 years ago, but today some general aviation aircraft are every bit as complex as Transport category aircraft. In fact, most new technology found in civil aircraft today originates in general aviation and corporate aircraft long before the air carriers implement it. Consequently, AOPA believes that if additional training is in fact justified by some identifiable deficiency in the existing training curricula, then it should be applied to all maintenance personnel.

Having said this, AOPA does not support the proposed requirement for an additional 573 hours of instruction for the AMT(T) certificate. This proposal was based on a job task analysis that was conducted many years ago prior to the update and revision of Part 147. Thus the need for 573 hours of training does not take into consideration the fact that more than half of the additional training identified as being required for the AMT(T) is already a part of the basic AMT training curriculum today. If there is still a need to require additional training above and beyond the current Part 147 curriculum then AOPA strongly urges that the specific maintenance topics be identified and added into the basic Part 147 training program for all future aircraft maintenance certificate applicants. There is positively no justification or need for creating an entirely new certification structure for aviation maintenance personnel when all that needs to be accomplished is an update to the training curriculum.

§66.103 Ratings.

This section proposes to combine the existing airframe and powerplant ratings on a mechanic certificate into a single “aircraft” rating. While AOPA supports the notion of having a single “aircraft” rating for those maintenance personnel who meet the knowledge and experience requirements for both the airframe and powerplant segments of the certificate, we do not believe that the powerplant rating should be dropped entirely. By deleting the powerplant rating entirely, the FAA and industry are failing to recognize continued specialized knowledge of powerplant mechanics who repair, alter, maintain, and overhaul powerplants of all types, specifically in repair stations and other maintenance facilities. We understand and support the FAA’s attempts to recognize the ever-increasing integration of structure, propulsion, and systems within aircraft and the desire to have the maintenance personnel qualifications mirror that change. However, we do not wish to throw the baby out with the bath water; i.e., delete those things that are serving the industry well simply for the sake of change. AOPA urges the FAA to consider adding the aircraft and aviation maintenance instructor ratings to the AMT certificate while retaining a separate powerplant rating that has proven to be very useful and successful to the industry. In lieu of this, AOPA recommends that FAA establish powerplant criteria as being eligible under the new ARS-I.

§66.105 Transition to new certificates and ratings.

AOPA is disturbed by the fact that the FAA has justified the impact of a transition to the multi-tiered certification of mechanics by claiming that there will be no impact on existing certificate holders. Statements have been made that all current certificate holders will be grandfathered and that current airframe and powerplant ratings will retain the same privileges throughout and after the transition. This is true, but it is only half the truth in that many current mechanics would lose a significant portion of their hard-earned privileges within 24 months of the transition. Any airframe and powerplant mechanic who transitions to an AMT(T) and does not remain current on Transport category (specifically Part 25 or Part 29) aircraft will in fact lose a very large portion of the privileges they possessed prior to the implementation of this rule. These AMT(T)s who revert to AMT privileges will not just lose the privilege of approving Transport category aircraft for return to service only to regain it by working under the supervision of others for a time. Rather, they lose the privilege altogether and must engage in some form of requalification training of an undetermined scope, duration, and cost.

The FAA has not directly informed the aviation maintenance community of this taking of existing privileges. Neither has there been any attempt made to quantify the costs associated with the taking of these privileges, the loss of potential wages that would be earned during the six months an AMT would work on Transport category aircraft under the supervision of AMT(T)s, or the cost of obtaining requalification training. AOPA believes that it is unconscionable that this has not been brought to the attention of current certificate holders. For this and numerous other reasons outlined throughout these comments, we remain adamantly opposed to the two-tiered certification proposal.

AOPA is also concerned that the FAA is proposing to no longer recognize mechanic certificates with aircraft and aircraft engine (A&E) ratings. For some unexplained bureaucratic reason, any person holding an A&E mechanic certificate, must exchange it for and an airframe and powerplant (A&P) certificate in order to transition to an AMT(T) certificate. Any failure to accomplish this prior to the effective date of the rule would limit the transition of an A&E mechanic to an AMT certificate regardless of experience. This defies all logic. These maintenance professionals are potentially the most experienced certificate holders in the industry, demonstrating 40 years of mastery in their profession. Yet the FAA is prepared to relegate them to the minimal privileges of an AMT. AOPA must insist that whatever the outcome of this rulemaking activity, any A&E mechanic must be grandfathered in the same manner as an A&P mechanic. To do otherwise is to place the value of some minimal amount of schooling over and above decades of aviation maintenance experience.

§66.107 Aircraft rating: Additional eligibility requirements.

It is our belief that should the FAA prevail in implementing a two-tiered certification system in the face of widespread public opposition, there will be but one Part 147 curriculum and that will be for the AMT(T) including an additional 573 hours. No aviation maintenance training school would consider graduating students with only the proposed AMT certificate. The market would simply not exist to hire these individuals. Therefore this section can only apply to those applicants for an AMT(T) who are establishing their qualifications by practical experience. Under this section, any applicant for an AMT(T) based upon experience would be required to attend formal AMT(T) additional training regardless of the nature of their experience. Their experience may be military or even air carrier on transport aircraft, but under the proposal everyone would be required to attend 573 hours of AMT(T) schooling. AOPA opposes this provision on the basis that no benefit has been identified to justify the cost and that it simply mandates classroom time without regard to the experience or performance of the applicant.

§66.109 Aircraft rating: Privileges and limitations.

AOPA does not support a multi-tiered certification approach for aviation maintenance personnel and maintains that all maintenance technicians should posses the privileges and limitations outlined in this section. If training is believed to be inadequate for today’s A&P mechanics and future technicians to retain the scope of their current privileges, then the training should be updated and possibly expanded. There is no justification for overhauling the entire aviation maintenance personnel certification system.

§66.111 Aircraft rating: Recent experience requirement.

AOPA will restate its opposition to the recent experience requirements for the AMT outlined in §66.65 as it applies equally to the AMT(T) certificate.

AOPA does not support the proposals for new recurrent training requirements under this section. Many years ago during the development of this notice by ARAC, it was stated that there was a need for regulated recurrent training to keep pace with the “rapidly changing” technology in the aviation maintenance field. Of particular concern at the time to the proponents of mandatory recurrent training were the air carrier and repair station maintenance personnel. It was strongly expressed in ARAC that maintenance personnel engaged in maintaining aircraft used under Part 91 operations were not the primary concern. AOPA finds it incredible then that virtually the only maintenance personnel who will be required to undergo the proposed additional recurrent training are maintenance personnel engaged in Part 91 activities. All other maintenance personnel, who arguably are engaged in the most “rapidly changing” environments of all, are exempt from the recurrent training requirements due to existing training conducted under Parts 121, 135, and 145.

The justification used by certain interests within ARAC to support the need for recurrent training was that existing training under the operations specifications of Parts 121, 135, and 145 certificate holders was insufficient. Yet, now we have a costly and burdensome new requirement that will apply only to maintenance personnel working on Part 91 aircraft and who are most likely to have to pay for this mandatory training out of their own pockets. These are the lowest-paid employees in the maintenance profession and will likely have to take time off of work to accomplish the training. Neither the cost of the training nor the lost wages have been accounted for by the FAA under this proposal.

Training, either formal or informal, is a constant and ongoing process in the aviation maintenance profession. The aviation maintenance technician is one of the best-informed and well-trained professionals in the technical specialties. This has been evidenced by the very low incidence of maintenance-related accidents, incidents, or failures. AOPA is opposed to a new requirement for recurrent training on the basis that it is unnecessary, does not address a specific need, and is already being accomplished on an ongoing basis every day by the aviation maintenance profession.

AOPA is also concerned with the new sole reliance upon a requalification course for reinstating the privileges of those maintenance personnel who have not met the recent experience and recurrent training requirements of §66.111. We recognize that the requirement for recent experience is not in and of itself new. However, the limitation that only requalification training will be accepted for reestablishing currency is extremely burdensome and unjustified. There is no evidence that the longstanding practice of regaining currency while working for six months under supervision is not working. In fact, working under supervision is fundamentally the best way to bring a non-current maintenance certificate holder back into the fold. It is far more complete and comprehensive than any classroom course could ever be. AOPA is opposed to the sole reliance upon requalification training as a means for regaining currency, and the FAA has not quantified the cost to non-current maintenance personnel of this new requirement.

§66.113 Aviation maintenance instructor rating: Additional eligibility requirements.

AOPA is equally opposed to a two-tiered instructor rating as it is to the proposed two-tiered technician certification system. There is no indication in the proposal as to when a course of maintenance instruction is considered an AMT(T) course for meeting the recent experience requirements of §66.111. Nearly all of the training conducted under Part 147 is applicable to both the AMT and AMT(T) certificates, and the instruction is geared toward specific tasks, skills, or technologies. Instruction is not predicated upon the type certification basis of aircraft. AOPA maintains that there should be one level of training, one level of maintenance certificate, and one level of aviation maintenance instructor.

§66.115 Aviation maintenance instructor rating: Privileges and limitations.

Please see our comments to §66.113.

§66.117 Aviation maintenance instructor rating: Recent experience requirements.

Part 147 training is designed to provide a broad base of knowledge, skills, and exposure to technologies found in the field. The training does not distinguish between Part 25 technology and practices and those found and used on all other aircraft. The type certification basis of the aircraft is irrelevant to aviation maintenance instruction and curricula. Again, AOPA maintains that there should be one level of training, one level of maintenance certificate, and one level of aviation maintenance instructor.

§66.119 Aviation maintenance technician (transport) training providers.

This section imposes a significant new burden on certificate holders under Part 121, Part 135, and Part 145. These organizations will be required to submit proposals and request approval showing that their training programs meet the AMT(T) initial and recurrent training requirements of paragraph (d) of Appendix A to Part 66. This will effectively require that all of the required maintenance training under Parts 121, 135, and 145 will be required to be approved a second time by a different FAA office than originally approved their operations manuals in the first place. The FAA has not addressed the costs and administrative burdens associated with this initial and proposed recurring biannual approval requirement. AOPA maintains that any maintenance training that has been approved for Parts 121, 135, and 145 certificate holders be approved for both initial and recurrent training for all aviation maintenance personnel.

Subpart D—Inspection Authorizations

AOPA is opposed to a multi-tiered Inspection Authorization (IA) certification system in the same manner as we are opposed to multiple levels of maintenance technicians and aviation maintenance instructors. AOPA maintains that there should be one IA who is qualified to approve for return to service maintenance, inspections, repairs, and alterations on aircraft regardless of certification basis. This has worked effectively for decades, and AOPA is unaware of any justification for change other than to be consistent with the misguided two-tiered maintenance technician proposal.

§66.151 Eligibility requirements: General.

Apart from any references to the AMT(T) certificate to which we are opposed, AOPA has no specific comment on this section as it remains largely unchanged from the current Part 65.

§66.153 Duration of authorization.

AOPA strongly supports the proposed increase in the duration of an inspection authorization from 12 to 24 months. Additionally, we support the proposal that the authorization would expire 24 months after the date of issuance rather than having all IAs expire on March 31 of each year. This single proposal is perhaps the most positive and beneficial item in the entire notice and should be acted upon regardless of the disposition of the entire rulemaking.

§66.155 Renewal of authorization.

Generally, AOPA supports this section however; we are adamantly opposed to the reference in paragraph (b) of this section to removal of the restrictions for Part 25 and Part 29 aircraft outlined in §66.157(b). As stated repeatedly, AOPA is opposed to any multi-tiered maintenance personnel certification system.

§66.157 Privileges and limitations.

Apart from any references to the AMT(T) certificate to which we are opposed, AOPA has no specific comment on this section as it remains largely unchanged from the current Part 65.

Subpart E—Aviation Repair Specialists

§66.201 Aviation repair specialist certificates issued on the basis of proficiency in a designated specialty area (ARS-I): Eligibility.

AOPA supports the proposal to certificate individuals based upon their proficiency in a specialized task independent of their current employment. While we recognize that a Part 121, 135, or 145 certificate holder would predicate exercise of the privileges of an ARS-I certificate on employment, the portable nature of the certificate will be a significant improvement for the individual repair specialist. Further, we believe that development of this “portable” repair specialist certificate has the potential to increase the number and availability of individuals who posses these desperately needed specialty skills for this industry.

§66.203 Aviation repair specialist certificates issued on the basis of employment (ARS-II): Eligibility.

Proposed §66.203(f)(1) changes the practical experience requirement from 30 months to 3,000 hours. AOPA maintains that current employment records lend themselves to the documentation or substantiation of 30 months of active aircraft maintenance experience. However, there are no current labor requirements for documenting hours of practical experience, and we feel that employers could be significantly burdened by the administrative task of trying to generate or substantiate such documentation. The existing system has worked well, and we see no justification for change. AOPA urges the FAA to retain the existing experience requirements of §65.101 for the ARS-II.

§66.205 Aviation repair specialist certificates issued to experimental aircraft builders (ARS-III): Eligibility.

AOPA strongly supports the development of this separate repair specialist certificate for the builders of experimental amateur-built aircraft.

§66.207 Transition to new certificates.

AOPA has no specific comment on this section.

§66.209 Aviation repair specialists issued on the basis of proficiency in a designated specialty area (ARS-I): Privileges and limitations.

AOPA supports the development of the ARS-I certificate and agrees with the scope of the proposed privileges and limitations.

§66.211 Aviation repair specialist certificates issued on the basis of employment (ARS-II): Privileges and limitations.

AOPA has no specific comment on this section.

§66.213 Aviation repair specialist certificates issued to experimental aircraft builders (ARS-III): Privileges and limitations.

AOPA strongly supports the development of this separate repair specialist certificate for the builders of experimental amateur-built aircraft and agrees with the scope of the proposed privileges and limitations.

§66.215 Aviation repair specialist certificates issued on the basis of proficiency in a designated specialty area (ARS-I): Recent experience requirement.

AOPA has no specific comment to this section.

Appendix A—Aviation Maintenance Technician (Transport) Training Program Curriculum Requirements

AOPA does not believe that the AMT(T) curriculum outlined in Appendix A belongs in Part 66 at all. Rather it or some similar updated curriculum should be included in the aviation maintenance training curriculum of Part 147 for all future maintenance technicians. AOPA remains adamantly opposed to any multiple level certification process and is greatly concerned with the potential for disruption, confusion, and burden such a system would impose on the entire aviation industry. AOPA urges the FAA to reconsider its position and determine whether the current curriculum for aviation maintenance training, combined with the various experience requirements, is adequate for the conduct of maintenance on all aircraft regardless of certification basis. If it is not, then the curriculum should be updated for all maintenance personnel to meet the current challenges of advancing technology.

Conclusion

Overall, AOPA maintains the this rulemaking proposal far exceeds what is necessary to bring the certification of maintenance personnel up to date with current technology and industry practices and, in do doing, creates numerous potential problems for compliance, oversight, and management. We urge the FAA to withdraw this proposal and reconsider the actual needs and requirements of the aviation maintenance community and the industry it supports. The current proposal is far from accomplishing that. AOPA maintains that all that is required are a few minor changes to the certification procedures as outlined in our section-by-section analysis above and an update to the aviation maintenance training curriculum.

We appreciate the opportunity to comment on this proposal and stand ready to assist the FAA in reviewing and updating the training curriculum as necessary.

Respectfully,

Douglas C. Macnair
Director
Regulatory and Certification Policy

January 7, 1999

Topics: AOPA, Aviation Industry, Advocacy

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