FAA is also taking a new look at its sequencing of certification projects, Baker says. Industry groups frequently point to the sequencing system as one of the key reasons projects are delayed. The agency has solicited input on how better to implement such a system to prioritize projects and hopes to transition to a new process next year, she says.
She also notes that FAA is working toward increasing the efficiency of the ODA process and improving the use of ODA authority, including providing more flexibility for the ODA. “Greater flexibility translates into the ODA having more control over its projects timelines,” she said.
Pete Bunce, president of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, stressed the importance of the agency continuing to improve the ODA program, saying leveraging resources is critical. If FAA permits increased use of delegation, then it frees up resources to enable the agency to focus on newer companies. The current uncertainties in the certification process serve as a disincentive for new companies to make investments, he says, because they cannot guarantee when products will get to market to begin generating revenues.
Bunce acknowledges commitments at the higher levels of the agency, but says, “You can’t just put out edicts from headquarters.” The agency needs more systemic changes, with new job descriptions and culture change, he says.
Baker acknowledges the need for culture change and regulatory and oversight changes. She cited efforts in this area as the agency tries to become more consistent in its regulatory oversight. The agency has been working to implement recommendations from the Consistency of Regulatory Interpretation Aviation Rulemaking committee. The ARC was formed at the request of Congress to develop recommendations to help standardize FAA’s approach to regulation.
To achieve the goal of more consistent regulation, Baker notes “long-term planning and culture change would be essential.” The agency is reviewing workforce training, along with working to better catalog and integrate guidance, she says.
Thomas Hendricks, president and CEO of the National Air Transportation Association, acknowledged that implementing changes is no easy task given the eight FAA regions, 10 aircraft certification offices and 80 flight standards district offices that must be balanced.
But regardless, FAA must be consistent, he says. “When FAA grants approval for a certificate or process to one aircraft operator or maintenance facility without giving the same approval to similar businesses in another area of the country, it directly affects the competitiveness of companies,” he says. He noted an example of a charter operator that wanted to move an aircraft from one FAA region to another. The operator was deemed compliant in the first region, but had to spend $25,000 and wait five weeks to receive approval from the next region. This cost the operator more than $200,000 in lost revenue.