FAA Withdraws Repair Station Proposal

: May 7, 2009 Federal Register

SUMMARY: The FAA is withdrawing the Dec. 1, 2006 notice of proposed rulemaking to revise the system of ratings and require repair stations to establish a quality program. The FAA is withdrawing the NPRM because it has determined the NPRM does not adequately address the current repair station environment and because of the significant issues commenters — including the AEA — raised.

MAJOR HIGHLIGHTS: The Dec. 1, 2006 NPRM, applicable to repair station operators and applicants, proposed the revision to the ratings and classes that can be issued to a certificated repair station. The FAA also proposed for repair stations to establish and maintain a capability list of all articles for which they are rated.

The FAA received more than 500 comments to the NPRM. While there was general support for the need to revise the repair station rules, several commenters asked for the rule to be withdrawn. Many other commenters expressed concerns related to ratings (particularly avionics rating), capability list, quality system, letter of compliance, chief inspector, housing and facilities, and the FAA’s denial of a repair station certificate — and some were out of scope. The Aircraft Electronics Association, Spirit Avionics Ltd., Temple Electronics Co. and other commenters recommended withdrawal of the rule.

Several commenters, including Southern Avionics & Communications, Executive AutoPilots, Genesis Aviation, Aircom Avionics, American Airlines, Turbine Weld and others, expressed general disapproval of the proposed rating system.

According to Spirit Avionics, combining the proposed new avionics rating with current market forces would negatively affect the ability of avionics-only repair stations to remain viable, and the NPRM does not recognize that avionics service facilities are transitioning to flight-line repairs and avionics upgrades as main sources of revenue. Spirit Avionics also said the NPRM does not recognize that avionics repair stations’ ability to perform such services are based primarily on the avionics equipment onboard the aircraft rather than on the type, make or model of the aircraft.

Eighteen commenters, including Southern Avionics & Communication and the Avionics Shop Inc., stated strong opposition to the proposed capability list requirement. These commenters expressed concern that the proposed requirement would cause chaos and bankruptcy. They said such requirements are unjustified, unnecessary, irrelevant and economically punitive without offering further safety benefits.

A number of commenters, including the AEA, Griffin Avionics and Temple Electronics Co. objected to the proposed capability list because it could require having several hundred types of ratings attached to a single repair station aircraft rating.

According to the AEA and Temple Electronics Co., the stated benefit of the quality system requirements is based on “false premises” because the FAA cited different cost-benefit estimates in prior repair station rules. They said the FAA removed the quality assurance requirements proposed in the 1999 NPRM from the subsequent 2001 final rule because the requirements were overly burdensome and not cost-effective. They also said, despite removal of these requirements from the 2001 final rule, the FAA introduced similar requirements in the 2006 NPRM without taking time to assess whether the prior rule had proven successful.

Spirit Avionics, Weld Avionics, Southern Avionics & Communications, Executive AutoPilots, Vero Beach Avionics, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, and two individual commenters said if a repair station properly performs maintenance according to FAA-approved processes, maintaining a quality assurance system would be extremely burdensome and would have little merit.

AEA, Temple Electronics Co., ARSA and Aeropro said a mandatory letter of compliance would be burdensome, unnecessary and redundant. According to the AEA, the letter is a carryover from the period when the repair station manual was simply a statement of commitment to comply with the regulations. Aeropro said because something has been a longstanding practice, it is not sufficient reason to include it as a mandatory provision in the rule. The company said including language similar to what is in Section 119.35, for certificate applications, would be more appropriate.

We are extremely pleased with the membership’s efforts and the resulting FAA action. The avionics industry raised solid challenges to the FAA’s well-intended proposal, which could not be resolved, forcing the FAA to withdraw its proposed changes to the repair station regulations. This is how rulemaking is supposed to work.

Contact Ric Peri, AEA vice president of government and industry affairs, by email at ricp@aea.net or by phone at 202-589-1144.