FAA changes course on controversal bulletin

 - February 8, 2007, 4:07 AM

The FAA has announced it will delay further the compliance date for a recent Handbook Bulletin for Airworthiness (HBAW), affecting aircraft maintenance program requirements, to allow an existing industry working group to consider the issue.

HBAW 04-06B, released in late August, addresses aircraft configuration and maintenance programs for aircraft operated under Part 135. Many operators, in order to meet a nine or fewer passenger-seat configuration standard, have placarded or otherwise blocked certain seats to make them unusable. They then generally maintain the aircraft under 135.411(a)(1) requirements. The new guidance in HBAW 04-06 would require operators to physically remove these seats or switch to the 134.411(a)(2) maintenance program.

Under the proposed rule, most operators would be required to obtain an STC for the seat removal. Under the new policy, using a placard to make a seat unusable by passengers, even if previously approved by the FAA, would no longer be acceptable.
Staff and members of the National Air Transportation Association’s air charter and aircraft maintenance and system technology committees have met extensively with the FAA to voice concerns about the agency’s course of action. As a result of these continuing discussions, the FAA decided to delay the effective date of the bulletin an additional 90 days. The new compliance date is February 28.

The FAA intends to engage members of the Part 135/125 Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) in a discussion of how best to address the FAA goals outlined in the HBAW. As a result, it is possible that the FAA may further revise the HBAW or turn over the project to the ARC and allow it to devise a solution. NATA staff and several association members will participate in the ARC meetin