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An industry watchdog objects to unsanctioned information collection.

FAA Safety Assurance System Data Collection Ceases, Pending Review

SAS data collection requirement halted by FAA after certificate holders protest paperwork burden.

Printed headline: Cross Your Ts

 

The FAA has—at least temporarily—ceased requiring certificate holders to complete safety assurance system (SAS) data collection forms (e.g., “data collection tools,” or “DCTs”). Notice 8900.451 states that these forms “are intended for inspector use only and should not be given to the certificate holder to complete.”

The notice was issued after the Aeronautical Repair Station Association (ARSA) pointed out that the agency failed to obtain requisite Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approval for the collection of information, a step required by the Paperwork Reduction Act.

The FAA’s SAS is meant to be a risk-based, data-driven oversight system. While the system is applicable to a subset of certificate holders—including those governed by Parts 121, 135 and 145—the end goal is to create an all-encompassing system that would be used to evaluate certification of and compliance with all of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations by applicants and certificate holders.

Despite the agency’s contention that SAS “does not impose additional requirements on certificate holders,” ARSA said regulator action was at times held hostage until the unsanctioned paperwork was completed. “This association has emails and other written communications from FAA personnel stating that the certificate holder must complete the DCTs before certification or changes to existing certificates and authority can and will take place,” said Marshall Filler, ARSA managing director and general counsel, in a Feb. 1 letter to the agency.

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An industry watchdog objects to unsanctioned information collection.

ARSA pointed out that the Paperwork Reduction Act is meant to ensure the government does not impose an undue burden on small businesses.

Agency Information Collection Requests (ICRs) initiated under the act can take up to 10 months to process. An OMB Paperwork Reduction Act timeline includes a 30-day notice and comment period as well as a 30-day OMB review period. And that clock does not start ticking until after the ICR is submitted, a feat in and of itself. Under OMB guidance, the agency is required to provide justification for the data collection and a long list of supporting documentation.

“Regardless whether the agency obtains OMB approval, we expect to see some fundamental changes,” said Filler. “As currently constituted, we find it hard to believe the OMB would countenance a paperwork burden of this magnitude dropped on applicants and certificate holders under the current DCTs.”

In the meantime, the notice states that agency representatives may collect certain information on a “voluntary” basis. The legality of that practice may, however, be called into question, given the statute’s applicability to voluntary—as well as mandatory—government data collection.

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