Q: We are trying to hire a non-A&P as an instructor. Do we need FAA approval?
A: The regulation does not require FAA approval for non-A&P instructor hires. The AMTS is responsible for ensuring the instructor is qualified to teach the assigned content so that positive educational outcomes are achieved.
Here are the regulatory requirements with regard to instructor qualifications:
§ 147.5 Application requirements.
(a) To be issued a certificate or rating under this part, an applicant must demonstrate compliance with the requirements of this part.
(b) An application for a certificate and rating to operate an aviation maintenance technician school must include the following:
* * *
(3) A description of the manner in which the school will ensure it provides the necessary qualified instructors to meet the requirements of § 147.19; and
* * *
§ 147.19 Instructor requirements.
Each certificated aviation maintenance technician school must:
(a) Provide qualified instructors to teach in a manner that ensures positive educational outcomes are achieved;
(b) Ensure instructors either -
(1) Hold a mechanic certificate with one or more appropriate ratings; or
(2) If they do not hold a mechanic certificate, are otherwise specifically qualified to teach their assigned content; and
(c) Ensure the student-to-instructor ratio does not exceed 25:1 for any shop class.
In short, the AMTS must follow the process as set forth in its operations specifications, paragraph A013, describing how it will ensure instructors are qualified.
For accredited institutions, your instructor qualifications are likely driven by state and/or accreditation requirements, those policies can and should be used as the basis of your operations specifications description. In other words, the program should either cut and paste the school’s policies surrounding hiring of qualified instructors, or reference the document where those policies reside (keeping in mind that if you reference a policy and its revision number, the operations specifications must be revised as new revisions are adopted).
While FAA mechanic certification is very likely a required qualification for many A&P faculty positions, FAA certification is not required. If an instructor does not hold an FAA certificate, the school must ensure they are otherwise specifically qualified to teach the assigned content. And that judgment should be made by the school, not the local inspector. Of course, the FAA’s “quality check” will ultimately be the FAA mechanic test passing rate of your students.
AMTS can choose to but are not required to maintain an FAA operations manual. Whether you have an operations manual or not, it is recommended (but not required) that the AMTS maintain a list of current instructors and make it available to the FAA upon request. The list of current instructors should include--
Q: I understand that the new part 147 allows our students to take the general test as soon as they’ve completed the general curriculum. What needs to be included on the required “authenticated documentation,” and what is the difference between the authenticated documentation required for early general testing, and the authenticated documentation required for a certificate of completion?
A: Before the new rule was published, most part 147 schools had an exemption from the FAA to allow their students to take the general knowledge test when the student completed that part of the curriculum. The new rule allows AMTS to provide students that opportunity without an exemption. (NOTE: If you have an exemption, it will expire under the new rule, no need to get it renewed.)
Here are the applicable parts of the regulation:
So, the FAA uses the term “authenticated documentation” in two places in the new rule: one as the evidence needed to take the FAA general knowledge test before graduation, and the other as the evidence needed to take the airframe and/or powerplant portions of the test after graduation.
Another difference: An AMTS is required to issue authenticated documentation to graduates under 147.21. An AMTS is not required to provide authenticated documentation evidencing completion of the general curriculum under 147.31, but without that authenticated documentation, the student is not eligible to take the general written test early.
What the authenticated documentation looks like is totally up to the program, it can be a letter or a certificate. Whatever form the program uses for its graduation certificates and/or certificates of completion in the past will work, so long as they include the following information:
Gap Training Under the New Rule?
Q: For currently-enrolled students that have already completed a portion of the A&P curriculum, do we need to go back and train them on ACS elements that are newly-incorporated before we issue the requisite authenticated documentation in order for them to test?
A: Gap training is not required. The school must ensure it's curriculum aligns with the new airman certification standards by Sept. 21, 2022, and must ensure its students are prepared for the FAA mechanic test (which will not align to the new standard until next summer). The FAA has issued the following guidance to its inspectors:
Please be aware that there is no specific requirement for gap training in the regulation. Therefore the FAA cannot request or demand that an AMTS do gap training. As previously stated, the AMTS is responsible to determine how to transition students relative to curriculum requirements. The FAA recognizes the difficulties associated with the "light-switch" effectivity of the curriculum changes imposed by the new regulations. If an AMTS is found to be in non-compliance with 147.21, or any regulation, the FAA is committed to working with the AMTS to appropriately address the non-compliance. If safety issues and/or regulatory noncompliance are identified, follow the process contained in Volume 14, Chapter 1, Section 2 to determine the appropriate FAA compliance or enforcement action.
Q: Do we need operation specification (op spec) paragraph A025 (Electronic Signatures, Electronic Recordkeeping, and Electronic Manuals/Documents)? The school is getting some pushback from the FAA when we say we do not use electronic signatures or electronic recordkeeping.
A: There are three tables included op spec A025:
For tables 2 and 3, if your program is accredited, they should read “The certificate holder meets the requirements of 147.23 [which requires that the school have a quality system, or be accredited] by being accredited.” Even if your accredited program does not keep electronic versions of records, manuals, and/or documents, it’s still good for this language to be present in your operations specification. Alternatively the paragraph would state that your program does not use electronic records, which is fine, but will require a change to your operations specifications if/when you decide to transition.
If your program is not accredited, these tables will include statements that you do not use electronic recordkeeping, or a reference to (or description of) your recordkeeping system.
Table 1 (electronic signatures) is only speaking to signatures affixed to A&P student certificate of completions and authenticated documentation—since that’s the only “recordkeeping” required by part 147. All programs, no matter if they are accredited or not, need to provide a description of (or reference to) their electronic signature procedures. For example, what type of electronic signature does the program use, how does it ensure those signatures are kept secure, how will final documents be secured to ensure the signature isn’t removed or copied, etc.?
Alternatively, this table can remain blank if electronic signatures will not be used on authenticated documentation or certificates of completion.
Q: If a student completes the general portion of the program and proceeds to take the general written test (using an “authenticated document” issued by the school to demonstrate the student’s preparedness to take the mechanic general written test early, as provided in 147.31), and fails that test, but then proceeds to pass the general test once the student finishes the curriculum (using the certificate of completion as the authority to test), for purposes of calculating our passage rate, will those written tests be counted as a pass, a fail, or both?
The first failed general written test would not be used in the passage rate calculation (since it was not taken 60 days after graduation). The second passed general written test would be included in the passage rate calculation.
The program’s “minimum passage rate” (as provided for in 147.25) is calculated based on the test scores of students that test within 60 days after “graduation.” For purposes of the FAA regulation, the student’s “graduation date” is the date entered on the FAA Form 8610-2 and the student’s certification of completion (both of which are issued upon graduation of the airframe and/or powerplant curriculum). So, for the first general knowledge test, taken before “graduation,” would not be included in the calculation, but the second test, taken after graduation, would count.
Couple other considerations if we change up the scenario a bit:
What if the student takes an oral and practical early, as provided by § 65.80? The score would not count toward the passage rate because the student hasn’t “graduated” yet. Again, that “graduation date” is driven by the date on the 8610-2, and that form will state the proposed (i.e., future) graduation date, which would be the same date subsequently entered on the certificate of completion and any future 8610-2.
Side note: The student will not need a certificate of completion or an 8610-2 in order to take the written knowledge test. All the student will need is an “authenticated document” that demonstrates the student’s preparedness to take the test, which could be a certificate of completion but doesn’t have to be.
For more information on passage rate calculations, listen in on the recorded version of the June 30, 2022 webinar: https://register.gotowebinar.com/recording/2285866406537654799.
How do we comply with the new part 147 when there are challenges procuring equipment to teach new ACS elements?
Q: The ACS includes some new knowledge, risk mitigation, and skill elements that are not incorporated into our current part 147 program. The program is unable to procure the equipment necessary to adequately teach these elements in time to meet the Sept. 21 requirement. How are we expected to comply with the new rule if we can’t obtain the equipment in time to align our curriculum to the new mechanic airman certification standard?
A: First, since the vast majority of ACS elements are not new, we suggest you triple check that the element is in fact new and it’s not already addressed in the current part 147 curriculum requirements or in the practical test standard. If the element is incorporated in one of those documents, ask yourself how the program is addressing the element now? What equipment is the local DME using to test that element? So long as your curriculum addresses the element, the program is in compliance with the new rule.
For truly new elements (we estimate that around 9% of ACS elements are in fact new), part 147 will require that the school “align” curriculum with the standard, but the rule does not dictate how a program imparts the knowledge. The “how” is totally up to the school, including what equipment it decides to use. And just because the element is listed as a required skill in the certification standard, doesn’t mean you HAVE to tie it to a hands-on project. While that might certainly be the best way to impart the skill; for purposes of regulatory compliance, all the program needs to do is ensure the curriculum addresses it. Can it be addressed with a paper project?
For instance, the ACS requires schools to “troubleshoot an air-cycle air conditioning system.” While it would be great to have an air cycle machine or training aid to facilitate teaching of that skill, lead times are long and the school may not have the immediate funding to procure the equipment. The rule requires that the element be taught, but does not dictate how it is taught, that is up to the school. In the absence of the ideal equipment, schools must get creative.
Perhaps the program illustrates troubleshooting with an unserviceable component donated by an industry partner. It could use an online solution that allows the student to effectively troubleshoot in a virtual environment. It could provide the student with a maintenance manual and discrepancy scenarios for the student to research, troubleshoot, and describe possible repair solutions.
These potential approaches are not meant to suggest schools should not procure new equipment, but are a means of compliance in the short term, allowing the program to process and prioritize equipment purchases in the long term, as revised FAA guidance is published (i.e., 8083 handbook revisions) and student outcomes are assessed.
It's also important to consider that the FAA written, oral, and practical exams will not test any new ACS elements until next summer. Officials have told said DME minimum equipment lists will not change (at least in the short term). So, as long as the school ensures all ACS elements are addressed on Sept. 21, it has time to “perfect” training to ensure student outcomes meet expectations. In other words, the new rule requires that you teach it, but it won’t be tested by the FAA for another year.
In short, new equipment purchases are not mandated by the new part 147. Since the DME minimum equipment list isn’t expected to change, and the mechanic test won’t be revised until next summer, part 147 programs must get creative to ensure each element of the ACS is addressed with on hand or easily accessible resources. So long as the element is addressed, the school will comply with the new rule.
This issue was the topic of an ATEC Aug. 25, 2022 webinar. Check out the recorded version on the ATEC webinar channel.
Changes to 65.80 early testing?
Q: We heard that the new part 147 also makes changes to early testing under 14 CFR 65.80. Is early testing going away?
A: Section 65.80 is not going away. The regulation will be revised to align with some of the new verbiage in part 147, but not in a way that will impact early testing. Here’s the explanation out of the preamble to the new rule:
Section 65.80 allows AMTS students to take the oral and practical tests prescribed by § 65.79 before meeting the applicable experience requirements of § 65.77, and before the student passes each section of the written test prescribed by § 65.75. The school must show an FAA inspector the student has made satisfactory progress at the school and is prepared to take the oral and practical tests. Additionally, § 65.75 states the student may take the tests prescribed by § 65.79 during the final subjects of the student's training in the approved curriculum. The reference to “approved curriculum” in § 65.80 refers to a certificated AMTS's approved curriculum, which was required under § 147.21 as it existed prior to this interim final rule.
In accordance with Section 135 of the statute, AMTS curriculums under part 147 will no longer require FAA approval, as reflected in new § 147.17. As a result, the FAA is making a conforming amendment to § 65.80 by removing reference to an AMTS's “approved” curriculum. This amendment will allow AMTS students to continue testing under § 65.80.
Further, § 65.80 permits students to take the oral and practical test prescribed by § 65.79 during the final subjects of the student's training in the part 147 curriculum before the applicable experience requirements of § 65.77 are met and before the student passes each section of the written test required by § 65.75 when the AMTS shows the student's satisfactory progress to an FAA inspector. In the interest of regulatory standardization, the FAA is revising the language from “an FAA inspector” to “the Administrator.” Additionally, the FAA is removing gender references within the regulatory text.
Here is how the new 65.80 will read as of Sept. 21, 2022 (the effective date of the new part 147), in line with the edits as described in the preamble to the new direct rule:
§ 65.80 Certificated aviation maintenance technician school students.
Whenever an aviation maintenance technician school certificated under part 147 of this chapter shows to the Administrator that any of its students has made satisfactory progress at the school and is prepared to take the oral and practical tests prescribed by § 65.79, that student may take those tests during the final subjects of the student's training in the curriculum required under part 147, before the student meets the applicable experience requirements of § 65.77 and before the student passes each section of the written test prescribed by § 65.75.
Access to FAA's WebOPSS
Q: We understand that part 147 certificate holders can get access to the FAA’s WebOPSS system, which would allow the school to electronically request changes to our operations specifications. This sounds like it would greatly streamline the review and approval process. How do we get access?
A: WebOPSS (Web-Enabled Business Operations Safety System) is the automated application used by the FAA to generate and manage operations specifications (OpSpecs) on behalf of the certificate holder. Certificate holders may receive login credentials to manage OpSpecs through WebOpss after receiving the necessary training.
That said, while WebOPSS provides a handy way to access and manage OpSpecs, part 147 schools are not required to use it. OpSpecs can continue to be managed via paper or electronic email, as they always have.
The requisite WebOPSS training is provided either 1) through the FAA Academy (at a cost) or 2) by a representative of the local FAA office (for free). A read-only version of the slide deck that local inspectors may use to train industry users is available here.
Once the school is trained on WebOPSS, the local inspector must fill out the WebOPSS “New User Request (Industry User)” form available in the FAA’s internal systems. Once approved, the certificate holder must purchase a digital signature at https://dcs.faa.gov/, to sign OpSpecs electronically.
NOTE: Currently, WebOPSS must operate in Internet Explorer, which has been decommissioned by Microsoft. The FAA has distributed workaround instructions until it can update the system’s compatibility. Those instructions are available at https://cms.faa.gov/headquartersoffices/avs/how-configure-your-pc-webopss-instructions.
Q: It seems that the new part 147 is a done deal, but the publication says the comment period is open until 9/21/22. Should we comment?
A: The short answer is YES, we expect and encourage the community to comment on the interim final rule.
Long answer: Since Congress mandated that the FAA publish this very specific language, the agency has very little leeway to change the text. That said, Congress also directed the agency to issue the language as an "interim final rule," not a "final rule," meaning Congress also intended the agency to take public comment once the "final" rule was published. So, comments are encouraged and could potentially direct changes to the text if there was a very compelling reason. If additional rulemaking is deemed necessary given public comment, more likely the FAA would initiate a new rulemaking.
The FAA addresses this question and more in its FAQ document.
Q: Would you please clarify the effective dates for the PTS and the ACS? Both FAA-S-8081-26B (PTS) and FAA-S-ACS-1 (ACS) state on the cover page the same effectivity date and enforceable statement. Which of the two will be used to comply with the new part 147?
A: The “new” FAA-S-8081-26B (PTS) was created to combine the current PTS into one document and will still be the testing standard through next summer. Upon the new part 147 effective date (Sept. 21, 2022), the school will be required to align its curriculum with the ACS (i.e., the ACS will be the curriculum standard).
So, to answer your question, both standards will be effective for different purposes (PTS for testing, ACS for curriculum) for the next year. The FAA will officially adopt the ACS as both the testing and the curriculum standard on July 31, 2023, at which time the PTS will phase out.
You’ll find the rationale for this “transition plan” on page 35 and 36 of the interim final rule, along with this statement: “…the FAA will use the Mechanic PTS as the testing standard until July 31, 2023. After July 31, 2023, the FAA will use the Mechanic ACS to conduct mechanic tests.”
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