Part 135 rulemaking group tends to the tough issues

 - July 24, 2007, 8:38 AM

At present, the most that can be said about the FAA’s intention to have an Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) assist in rewriting FAR Parts 135 and 125 is that it is a work in progress.

The first ARC was formed several years ago and dealt with developing FARs that would apply to fractional jet operations. After lengthy deliberations, the new FAR–Part 91 Subpart K–was promulgated and instituted.

The requirement for the current ARC was published in the Feb. 3, 2003, Federal Register for a comprehensive regulatory review of 14 CFR Parts 135 (which governs commuter and on-demand operations) and 125 (which governs the operation of airplanes that carry 20 or more passengers or have a payload of 6,000 pounds or more). The stated purpose of the ARC was to review and provide advice and recommendations to resolve current issues affecting this part of the industry, including:

• Enable new aircraft types and new technologies in air-transportation operations.

• Provide safety and applicability standards that reflect the current industry, industry trends and emerging technologies and operations.

• Address international harmonization and ICAO standards.

• Potentially rescind Part 125 from 14 CFR.

The review would also include related portions of Parts 91, 119 and 121, as well as other regulations, with such issues as the design and manufacture of new aircraft that current regulations do not address adequately–for example, large airships, powered-lift aircraft and so on. Additionally, it would address certain large airplanes with modifications to payload capacity and passenger seat configuration operating under Part 91 or 135–the Boeing Business Jet was referred to in internal documents.

The FAA invited people interested in serving on the ARC to request membership and asked for specific and detailed comments. There were more than 100 responses to this request.

The ARC would act solely in an advisory capacity to provide advice and recommendations to the FAA associate administrator for regulation and certification. ARC discussion would include, but not be limited to, operations objectives, recommendations and requirements; rulemaking needed to meet objectives; guidance material and the implementation strategy; and documentation and technical information to support recommendations.

The FAA had a demonstrated concern for the applicability and safety standards for large-airplane operations and asked the ARC to provide an interim report and written recommendations on this issue.

As dictated by the FAA, the ARC would be composed of members selected by the FAA representing aviation associations, industry operators, manufacturers, employee groups or unions, FAA and other government entities, and other aviation industry participants.

GAMA’s Bolen Chairs the ARC
The ARC was subsequently formed with Ed Bolen of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) as the chairman, and it has been meeting with some regularity. For the more obvious reason that any issue would be subject to change or modification before the final report, not much information as to specific issues has been leaked out. However, some participants have indicated that less contentious items have been resolved and draft language has been prepared, but that a number of difficult issues involving differences of opinion remain open. The next ARC meeting will be a four-day session this month that will probably be focused on changes to Part 125, something that the FAA wants to see tightened with more stringent safety requirements. The ARC expects to submit its recommendations to the FAA in November.

The National Air Transportation Association (NATA), which speaks for a large number of Part 135 on-demand operators, is represented on the ARC and is generally optimistic about the project since many of the current regulations are outdated, confusing and no longer necessary. NATA expects that the introduction of very light jets (such as the Eclipse 500 and Citation Mustang), large airships and other new technologies might change the industry, and suggests that any new regulations be able to accommodate all the newest advances.

NATA also seeks to ensure that the new regulations do not place undue regulatory or financial burdens on smaller Part 135 operators. The association’s specific concern is with the revision of on-demand flight, duty and rest regulations, and managing crew fatigue. NATA members participating on the ARC and members of its Air Charter Committee have been providing input to ensure that any changes have minimal impact.

On the other hand, NBAA is concerned about proposals to expand FAR 91.501(f) to include Part 125 airplanes and that any safety standards would apply only to those aircraft.

Some NBAA member companies set up an affiliate company whose sole purpose is to operate the company aircraft. The FAA’s view is that these operations are commercial and fall under Part 135; NBAA’s position is that these companies should be allowed to operate their aircraft under Part 91.

‘Job Well Done’
ARC participants laud the FAA’s Kathy Perfetti for a job well done, not only for keeping the committee focused on the task but in supporting the process and providing the necessary resources to accomplish the stated objectives.

Looking ahead as to when the FAA will issue the revised FARs takes gazing intently into one or more crystal balls. Assuming the ARC completes its work on time and submits its recommendations to the FAA would be a good bet. However, the ARC report will have to work its way through the various FAA offices for legality, clarity and coordination with their various divisions.

Having done that, the FAA would then have to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) in the Federal Register and request comments from interested parties. Those comments would have to be evaluated, with the possibility that some changes to the original proposal could be made.

This route can be time consuming and, basing a guess on the time it took for the fractional ARC recommendations to become FARs, the crystal ball comes up with 2006 or later. Holding one’s breath while this process negotiates its tortuous trail would not be recommended.