FAA order clarifies adoption of foreign ADs

 - September 11, 2006, 10:24 AM

Comments were due June 14 on a new FAA Order that proposed changes in the way the agency processes mandatory airworthiness information. Draft Order 8040.2, when enacted, will take precedence over the FAA’s Airworthiness Directive Manual FAA-AIR-M-8040 where there is a conflict between the two documents.

The Order’s main purpose is to speed the U.S.’s adoption of ADs published by non-U.S. aviation authorities. Such ADs are also known as mandatory continuing airworthiness information (MCAI). “This order describes a process that will help us speed drafting of MCAI-related ADs, thereby reducing risks to the public,” the FAA noted.

FAA engineers will continue to assess foreign ADs and determine whether they concur with the required corrective action. If not, engineers will consult with the issuing authority to resolve the discrepancy. While the FAA will use as much original text from the foreign AD as possible, agency engineers will be able to clarify any unclear language.

Not all foreign MCAIs should be turned into an FAA AD, according to the Order. “There might be cases where an AD is not warranted in response to an MCAI.” These include product improvements with no safety impact; maintenance items unrelated to an unsafe condition; operational aberration; unique operating environment or special situations in another country; suspended action; and minor editorial changes.

For cases where the FAA engineer determines that the MCAI doesn’t involve an unsafe condition, the FAA is under no obligation to draft an AD. The FAA engineer might want to create
a Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin, a document that isn’t mandatory but helps spread useful safety information.

The Order briefly addresses the subject of whether or not MCAIs apply to PMA parts as well as original equipment manufacturer parts. PMA parts are FAA-approved parts manufactured under parts manufacturer approval regulations and can be used as replacement parts on any FAA-type- certified product. Because PMA parts are usually created by duplicating the design of the OEM part, any MCAI or AD that applies to an OEM part ought to apply to the identical PMA part, the Order noted.

Abbreviated Comment Period

There have been complaints about the Order’s 15-day comment period for ADs proposed as a result of publication of MCAI. The Order explained that “For any MCAI-related AD on which we request comments, we give only 15 days to comment, since information about the unsafe condition and corrective actions has already been published and distributed via the MCAI and referenced service information.” In other words, no one should be surprised to see
a proposed AD based on MCAI with a 15-day comment period because that MCAI has been disseminated elsewhere.

AOPA complained that the 15-day comment period is far shorter than the typical 60-day comment period on FAA proposed ADs. The association is also concerned that under the new Order, the FAA will bypass the airworthiness concern process, which is sometimes used to gather information about problems from operators before issuing what might be an expensive AD. Draft Order 8040.2 doesn’t mention the airworthiness concern process, which generally applies to light aircraft.