November 12, 2012
The FAA wants to tighten up its requirements for aircraft maintenance outsourcing, proposing changes in the rules to “ensure consistency between contract and in-house carrier maintenance and assist the FAA in its oversight responsibilities.”
It also is proposing to apply its tightened rules not only to schedules service carriers under Part 121 regulations, but also to most commuter and on-demand carriers operating under Part 135 regulations.
Airlines already are primarily responsible for the airworthiness of their aircraft, whether the maintenance is contracted out or performed in-house, and any person or company doing the maintenance work is required to follow the airline’s maintenance manual. Also, in their general maintenance manuals, each carrier must list who is doing its maintenance work and provide a general description of the contracted work.
But the new Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which is scheduled for publication in the Federal Register on Nov. 13, focuses on shortfalls that have been identified in several reports by the U.S. Transportation Department’s inspector general, the last of which was published in 2008. Congress subsequently mandated a tightening of the FAA regulations as part of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.
One current problem, the FAA says, is that the requirement for maintenance providers to follow the manuals is “broadly stated and often loosely implemented.” The maintenance providers also become frustrated, it adds, because the manuals often are geared toward in-house maintenance and sometimes omit proprietary data or other confidential information that the airline does not want to share.
Another problem, the FAA says, is that the list and description of providers is “piecemeal and inconsistent,” which makes it more difficult for the FAA to identify and target problem areas.
Under the proposal, each carrier that contracts out any of its maintenance must have policies and procedures in place to ensure that, if followed, the contracted maintenance would be performed in accordance with its maintenance program and manual. “Proprietary data issues could be addressed by carefully drafted airworthiness agreements between the air carrier and its maintenance provider,” the FAA says.
The carrier also must be “directly in charge” of the work.
“A representative of the certificate holder directly in charge of covered work does not need to physically observe and direct each maintenance provider constantly, but must be available for consultation on matters requiring instruction or decision,” the proposed rule states.