Last June, the FAA issued Order 8000.373, a “new” directive establishing a “compliance philosophy” that sets a preference for correction over FAA enforcement. In the order, the agency states that enforcement action may not be necessary when deviations from “regulatory standards” occur because of “flawed procedures, simple mistakes, [a] lack of understanding, or diminished skills.”
To ensure the directive is properly communicated to field offices, the Flight Standards Service (AFS) issued Notice 8900.323 (as recently amended by Notice 8900.343), which is being incorporated into the inspector handbook, a.k.a. Flight Standards Information Management Services (FSIMS). While the documents are directed at airline operations, they contain constructive methods for resolving issues between the agency and its certificate holders. For example--
In accordance with this guidance and with the FAA’s Compliance Philosophy, the AFS approach to oversight and compliance is evolving to stress an engaged, solution-oriented, outcomes-based approach. The goal is to identify deviations from standards and correct them as effectively, quickly, and efficiently as possible. If the deviation does not involve intentional, reckless, or criminal behavior and the airman/organization is cooperative, AFS should resolve the issue through use of the compliance tools, techniques, concepts, and programs discussed above and throughout this notice. This approach will more effectively address inadvertent deviations and conserve FAA enforcement resources for intentional, reckless, criminal, and uncooperative behavior.
Notable for the AMTS community, the Notice’s Appendix C uses an AMTS scenario to illustrate appropriate inspector actions under the new compliance philosophy--
During a 14 CFR part 147 maintenance technician school records check, an inspector finds that one student’s file does not contain the information on the last required test taken by that student (§ 147.33(a)). All other files are in compliance with the regulations. A school representative is able to determine the date and grade of the student’s test and annotates the student’s record accordingly. Further, it is clear that the school understands the regulation but has simply made an unintentional error. The inspector concludes that an on-the-spot correction, that includes a control mechanism to help mitigate future errors, is sufficient to address the apparent deviation.
While the council objects to the assumption that the certificate holder is always wrong in discussions involving compliance – and cautions that enforcement actions must be anchored in the regulations – not FAA “safety oversight guidance” as suggested in the order, AFS is commended for providing its workforce positive tools rather than an enforcement hammer.
On Feb. 22, the STEM Education Coalition, an alliance of more than 500 business, education and professional organizations, submitted comments to the FAA part 147 notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM). In its letter, the group expressed its support for a maintenance technician competency-based learning system that allows industry to freely meet already-mandated knowledge, skill and experience standards.
The coalition’s comments echoed ATEC’s concerns that the NPRM goes beyond the FAA’s basic mandate to oversee and regulate safety in the aviation industry and that educational oversight is a responsibility best left to other executive branch agencies, stating in part: “Our Coalition supports education policies that are flexible and responsive to the needs of the global economy. As proposed in the NPRM, FAA mandates on teaching times, passing norms, maximum levels of instruction, student/teacher ratios, and static curriculum topics are not hallmarks of a modern, competency-based structure that industry desperately needs. These requirements lead to waste and increased costs for industry and students pursuing a STEM education.”
As a member of the coalition’s leadership council, ATEC furthers the group’s mission to educate government about the impact STEM education has on the global economy and to ensure student success in technical fields. Learn more about the coalition’s good work at the April 9-12 annual conference in Atlanta, or at http://www.stemedcoalition.org/.
In a memo dated Feb. 10, the FAA issued a deviation to inspector guidance eliminating qualification parameters requiring Designated Mechanic Examiner (DME) applicants to “concurrently” exercise the privileges of a mechanic certificate while teaching at an AMTS.
Order 8900.2A, ch. 6, sec. 1, para. 1(a)(3) precludes the most experienced instructors from appointment because of the inability, either due to personal time restrictions or school policy, to pursue part-time employment while instructing at an AMTS.
ATEC requested the deviation in a Jan. 22 letter to the agency (see previous story), where the council maintained that the “immediacy” requirement creates an undue restriction without providing an increase in safety, and disqualifies many current DME and otherwise excellent applicants.
The agency did not adopt ATEC’s suggestion that inspector guidance be tied directly to similar requirements found in the regulation; specifically, § 65.83(a). Under that section, an AMTS instructor may satisfy recent experience requirements so long as the administrator deems that person “able to do that work.”
To see more from ATEC on this issue, click here.
Preparations are underway for ATEC’s main event taking place in Atlanta, Georgia April 9-12, 2016.
This year’s agenda is chock-full and includes speakers from the Federal Aviation Administration, Delta Air Lines, Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, ExpressJet, Lockheed Martin and Airbus. Attendees will also get the opportunity to tour Delta Air Lines’ hangar and network with industry peers.
Your participation is a great way to build your own professional experience and support ATEC. Here are a few more ways you can leverage the conference for the benefit of all:
(1) Encourage instructors to attend. The event begins with two days of professional development sessions instructors can attend at a special rate. They can learn all weekend and be back home in time for classes on Monday.
(2) Take advantage of the eight (8) hours of inspector authorization refresher training credit. You can also use the training certificate to satisfy your own professional development requirements.
(3) Sponsor a portion of the event. It's great visibility for your institution or company and helps make it all possible. There are a variety of opportunities available (click here to review them) and we can work with you on additional options. Want to sponsor the entire conference? We can do that.
Hear this call to action and register now
On Feb. 1, ATEC led a broad effort to get the new part 147 right. The council submitted comments to the FAA’s notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) and organized an industry-wide effort to demand a competency-based rule.
ATEC’s comments, developed by a working group of AMTS representatives, provided a roadmap that would allow institutions to tailor their programs while adhering to agency standards. “Industry has suffered the repercussions of an outdated rule for far too long,” the comments said. “[Aviation maintenance technician school] students have been forced to spend wasted effort and time learning antiquated skills, and industry has borne the cost. We desperately need a competency-based rule that gives educators flexibility to teach the future workforce the skills needed to support the ever-changing, technology-driven, dynamic aviation industry.” The comments also provided specific regulatory language to aid swift issuance of a final rule.
To further highlight the need for a competency-based rule, ATEC sought assistance from its industry allies. In a separate submission, 14 organizations decried the NPRM’s continued reliance on class time at the expense of technical capability.
“Put simply, the proposal would impose 20th century educational practices on a 21st century industry,” the group, which included Airlines for America, the Aeronautical Repair Station Association and a broad swath of aviation, maintenance and educational interests, said. “It maintains its predecessor’s antiquated concern with the time a student spends in a classroom seat rather than focusing on the skills he or she actually gains. A competency-based standard, free of defined schedules and specific hour requirements, will allow industry to transition away from seat time in favor of a structure that creates flexibility and allows students to progress as they demonstrate mastery of subject matter, regardless of time, place, or pace of learning.”
While part 147 is the regulatory foundation for ATEC’s member institutions, the council- led effort serves a larger purpose. As its allies have recognized, getting the AMTS rule right means effective schools, competent students and a flourishing aviation community.
Stay tuned as ATEC continues to push for an efficient rulemaking process that culminates in the best possible rule.
To view the council’s comments, click here.
To view the combined industry comments, click here.
Mary Alice Rice, who was instrumental in the operation of the Northrop Rice Foundation, passed away on Jan. 26 at her home near Houston, Texas.
Alice’s long commitment to the aviation community began with a job at Braniff Airways in Kansas City, where she met her husband James in 1956. The two moved to California and eventually Houston, where they helped put a man on the moon before founding Rice Aviation (later renamed Northrop Rice USA, Inc.) in 1972. She led the company as chief executive officer for 44 years.
Alice worked closely with ATEC through her leadership of NRF, where she helped support the careers of thousands of aspiring aviation professionals, and was actively involved in the Association of Women in Aviation. She leaves behind her husband, six children, nine grandchildren and a legacy of dedicated commitment to the future of flight.
The council honors Alice's commitment to aviation, and invests in the future of aviation maintenance, by supporting the James Rardon AMT Student of the Year Award. Help celebrate this year's winner at the Annual Conference in Atlanta, Georgia.
To view Alice’s full obituary and to learn about funeral arrangements, visit: http://www.crowderfuneralhome.com/obituaries/mary-alice-rice/.
ATEC officially enlisted Congress in the council’s effort to update 14 CFR part 147. After weeks of development, Representatives Tom Rice (S.C.) and Jim Bridenstine (Okla.) sent a letter asking the FAA to make the rulemaking its highest priority.
To ensure a final rule is issued efficiently, the letter emphasized that the “outdated part 147 mandates hinder the aviation maintenance industry's ability to compete and grow” and encouraged the agency to “continue on the course identified in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.”
The effort to produce a final rule updating 147 is a top priority for ATEC. Stay tuned as the council continues to use every avenue to improve AMTS’s regulatory foundation.
February 2, 2016 update: Administrator Huerta responds to the congressional letter, stating in part "The part 147 rulemaking is among the highest priorities for the FAA. We are committed to delivering regulation that encompasses new technology and remains flexible to grow and adapt with the industry... The FAA will proceed with this rulemaking as timely and efficiently as possible while adhering to the requirements of the Administrative Procedures Act."
Stay tuned for updates on everything ATEC members need to know as well as ways that you can help the council and the AMTS community.