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Industry Opposes FAA ‘Approval’ Rule For Voluntary Repair Station Closures

Ten aviation trade associations have petitioned FAA to wipe out a recently enacted rule change that took away a repair station’s ability to voluntarily surrender its agency-approved certificate without FAA approval.

The change, which the association says is a unique requirement among all agency-issued certificates, was put in place as part of FAA’s update to its Part 145 rules for repair stations published late last year. 

FAA, responding to a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommendation, inserted the requirement that it must accept repair-station certificates being voluntarily offered for cancellation. NTSB urged FAA to issue a rule that would prevent individuals linked to a previously revoked repair station certificate from continuing to operate under a new certificate.

In the rule’s preamble, the agency reasons that the new language “will prevent a repair station under investigation from attempting to circumvent a possible enforcement action.” But the associations argue that FAA’s rules allow it to deny new certificates to applicants with key staff linked to the reasons behind a certificate being revoked or “in the process of being revoked.”

Surrendering a certificate being investigated for possible revocation doesn’t remove FAA’s ability to discipline individuals involved, even if the certificate is handed over, the associations argue. However, preventing a certificate from being voluntarily handed over could create real-world business challenges that do nothing to enhance safety, they argue.

For instance, a repair station that has decided to surrender its certificate and close its doors may not be able to sell off assets—normally a business issue, not a safety issue—if FAA has not formally accepted the facility’s decision.

“Unlike any other certificate holder, this language removed the ability of a repair station to surrender its certificate without agency approval and affirmative action,” the petitioners argue. “This change ignores the longstanding practice urging surrender of certificates that are in the process of being revoked to prevent further potential unsafe practices.”

NTSB’s attention became focused on the issue during its probe of a January 2003 crash of a Beech 95. Investigators discovered the accident was caused by improperly overhauled propeller blades. The owner of the repair station that did the work previously served as the chief inspector at a repair station that had its certificate revoked. NTSB in 2004 recommended that FAA issue a rule that strictly prevents this.

The associations have asked FAA to remove the language from the rule.

“Any threat to air safety is automatically removed when a repair station certificate is voluntarily surrendered without any required action by the agency,” the petition says. “Whenever a certificate holder is no longer able or willing to meet the safety requirements set forth in Part 145, it must be allowed to immediately cease operations in the most efficient and effective manner.”

Adds Aeronautical Repair Station Association (ARSA) Executive Director Sarah MacLeod: “We do not support individuals that use any certificate irresponsibly or in a manner that jeopardizes safety. We do however have to deal in the real world; business demands make it too problematic for surrendered certificates to depend on the administrative whims of the FAA.”

The petitioners are ARSA, Aerospace Industries Association, Aircraft Electronics Association, Aviation Suppliers Association, General Aviation Manufacturers Association, Helicopter Association International, Modification and Replacement Parts Association, National Air Carrier Association, National Air Transportation Association and Regional Airline Association.

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