Printed headline: Pursuing Alignment
The FAA recently fulfilled an industry request to remove language in its guidance material that directed inspectors to obtain a “letter of compliance” from Part 145 repair station certificate applicants as part of the certification process. The revision gives credence to industry’s long-held position that a statement from an applicant confirming it will do something that is already required by the regulation is redundant and unnecessary.
While there is no regulatory requirement, provisions directed at the inspector workforce contained in the Flight Standards Information Management System (FSIMS) called for an applicant to show—through the letter of compliance—how it will comply with the regulation. As a practical matter, the letter generally took the form of a cross-reference table that mapped each paragraph in Part 145 with the applicable section of the applicant’s repair station quality manual.
A joint letter sent by the Aeronautical Repair Station Association (ARSA) and the Aircraft Electronics Association (AEA) called for removal of the provision. The industry groups objected to the wasted resources required to complete the redundant exercise, and to the provision’s very existence given that a previous attempt to make the letter of compliance a regulatory requirement was abandoned. ARSA and AEA pointed to a 2006 notice of proposed rulemaking that would have mandated the letter of compliance as part of the application process. The proposal was ultimately withdrawn after significant industry pushback.
The agency’s removal of the guidance provision and closure of the industry request dovetails with a new initiative aimed at the same broad objective. The Part 145 Working Group is tasked by the FAA, through the Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee, to review and reconcile repair station regulations with associated guidance material.
“The letter of compliance is illustrative of a larger, systemic problem,” says ARSA Executive Director and Part 145 Working Group Co-Chair Sarah MacLeod. “It is just one instance of many where the agency utilizes guidance material to create mandates unsupported by the regulation.”
The working group—made up of a cross-section of industry representatives—held its first meeting last December and will convene monthly. The group will conduct a comprehensive review of internal and external guidance material, and all laws and regulations applicable to the certification and oversight of Part 145 repair stations. Recommendations will pursue alignment with regulations, U.S. law and executive orders and create a numbering scheme to establish the relationship between guidance and regulation.
“We intend to clearly establish the relationship between guidance and regulation and provide a methodology for the agency to better communicate its expectation of compliance to the public and its own workforce,” says MacLeod. “Put simply, the working group’s goal is to ensure guidance material is in line with the plain language of the regulation.”
The preliminary report is due to the agency by December 2020. A final report will follow, scheduled for delivery by December 2021.