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FAA Notice Clarifies Affirmative Approval Requirements

The FAA attempts to clarify phrases “acceptable to” and “accepted by” in federal regulations.

Printed headline: Acceptably Acceptable?

The FAA recently published Notice 8900.444 seeking to clarify the ill-defined but commonly used phrases “acceptable to” and “accepted by.”

The terms are found throughout the Code of Federal Regulations. One of the more vexing examples for the maintenance community is the §43.13 general performance rules, requiring that persons performing maintenance use “methods, techniques and practices acceptable to the administrator” (emphasis added).

According to the notice, the term “acceptable to” does not necessarily require that a practice, procedure or method have the agency’s blessing before a company can implement it. Adoption without affirmative approval is appropriate so long as the process is based on sound reason: “[T]he standard or publication used should be an accepted industry practice previously found acceptable by the FAA, or, at a minimum, the person using it should be able to articulate a clear and reasonable basis for the action taken being an acceptable practice or procedure.”

The clarification gets murky for instances where “acceptable to” is a precondition for FAA action—such is the case when “acceptable” activities require issuance of an operation specification. In those situations, the aviation safety inspector has “discretion” on the timing of determinations—though practically speaking, if an operation specification is issued, one tends to assume that the agency has “accepted” the method.

In contrast, the phrase “accepted by” indicates an affirmative approval requirement before implementation (verification of receipt by the agency does not count). This less utilized phrase is found in §43.10, which necessitates approval of life-limited parts disposition methods not specifically provided for in the regulation.

The notice will be incorporated into Order 8900.1 Flight Standards Information Management System, before its Nov. 28, 2018, cancellation date.

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