FAA has scaled back its latest revamp of the repair station regulations, eliminating a proposed new ratings system and several other significant changes that drew fire from industry following the draft rule’s release.
The notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), issued in May 2012, drew some 230 comments from industry. Many took aim at the proposed new ratings system, which FAA intended to align with technological shifts since the decades-old ratings were last updated. One example: replacing the "radio, instrument, and accessory" ratings with a single "component" rating. But industry balked at the changes and proposed a 24-month phase-in process (Aviation DAILY, Nov. 23, 2012).
"Many commenters argued that the proposed ratings system would not be satisfactory for current and future repair stations," a pre-publication version of the final rule explains. "Although commenters recognized that the system of ratings is outdated, there was general dissatisfaction with the proposed new system of ratings and the transition process."
FAA is also dropping proposals that would have required both supervisors and inspection personnel to speak English, and that supervisors be present to oversee work being done by their staffs.
In the NPRM, the agency reasoned that adding the speaking requirement would serve as a crosscheck to confirm that key repair station personnel meet the current requirements to read and understand English. But several foreign repair station holders disagreed, arguing that while some employees – like line mechanics – need to speak English to perform their jobs, many that work in back shops do not, and requiring them to learn it would not enhance safety.
Several in the industry argued that having a supervisor directly overseeing all work "would have required industry to hire numerous additional supervisory personnel at great cost to cover eventualities such as night work, emergency field maintenance, line maintenance, and work conducted at additional fixed locations," FAA said.
The agency also pulled a proposed requirement that would have required repair stations to have tooling and equipment needed to earn certifications or rating approvals. Repair stations argued that the current requirement of having contracts to place to obtain the tools is sufficient, and FAA agreed.
The new rule’s substantive changes are a new amendment on records falsification and a provision that allows FAA to weigh an applicant’s enforcement history when considering a new certificate. The latter addresses a National Transportation Safety Board recommendation.
The latest rule will push forward a Part 145 revamp that began a decade ago. A 2006 proposal that included revised ratings was shelved in 2009 over industry concerns.
The Aeronautical Repair Station Association (ARSA) suggested the 2012 draft rule be scrapped in favor of a new proposal that factors in the most recent industry comments. While FAA is finalizing some of its draft rule, the number of issues left on the cutting-room floor suggests that a follow-up draft regulation addressing key outstanding issues, like ratings, is likely.
A copy of the final rule was set to go public Aug. 8 and was briefly available on the Government Printing Office website. A clerical error led FAA to pull the rule back from official publication in the Federal Register. An agency spokesperson confirmed that the technicality is not related to the rule’s contents and said the regulation is back in queue for publication.