NATA requests review of ETOPS proposal

 - December 20, 2007, 5:55 AM

The National Air Transportation Association (NATA) has asked the FAA to delay for at least six months the February 2008 compliance deadline for proposed new Part 135 extended-range operations and establish a working group to develop guidance on a proposed Advisory Circular.

NATA said that after it reviewed proposed AC 135-42, Extended Operations (ETOPS) and Operations in the North Polar Area, it had specific concerns about  the content. “But more important, the association is disappointed that the [FAA] did not avail itself of an opportunity to address the fundamental issue of applicability, which is that it remains unclear how to determine whether ETOPS requirements apply,” NATA said.

The association argued that it is difficult for most Part 135 operators to know if they should be preparing to obtain ETOPS approval because the FAA has not provided a step-by-step process for operators to use in evaluating their aircraft and areas of operation.

Many operators remain unaware that their operations could be required to comply with ETOPS regulations. “The AC presumes that an operator intends to pursue ETOPS and then provides information on how to obtain FAA approval,” NATA wrote. “Absent is any objective discussion on the process to determine that ETOPS authorization is in fact necessary.”

NATA asked that the FAA amend the AC to include the thought process and steps an operator would follow to determine the appropriate speeds. Determining whether a specific operation is an ETOPS flight requires an operator to use an “approved one-engine inoperative cruise speed under standard conditions in still air” that is “chosen” by the operator.

“Existing one-engine inoperative speeds are not based on meeting ETOPS objectives, and no elaboration on what speed would be appropriate for an operator to choose from is offered,” the association said. “Also not addressed is the commitment accepted by airframe manufacturers to provide ETOPS one-engine inoperative data for the aircraft most likely to be affected by these regulations.”

When the FAA published the ETOPS final rule last January, it agreed with comments from NATA and others that the airplane manufacturers must determine the airspeeds the operators should use. The FAA responded that the manufacturers had agreed to provide this data.

“It would appear that this data has not been provided by all manufacturers for all potentially affected airplanes,” NATA wrote. “By failing to provide any guidance whatsoever regarding how an operator ‘chooses’ one-engine-inoperative cruise speed or how an operator can evaluate its operations to determine if ETOPS applies, this AC falls far short of its intended goal. Without this key information, the AC is not useful to the industry.”

The AC states that an operator will request an ETOPS area of operation based upon an analysis of proposed routing, implying that the FAA believes an operator will have specific departure and arrival destinations before obtaining ETOPS authority.
“However…an operator needs the FAA to help it determine when ETOPS authority is necessary based upon an ‘area’ rather than a specific operation.”

NATA recommended that the FAA establish a working group composed of representatives from the FAA and operators to develop guidance on these principles “so a clear and consistent understanding of ETOPS applicability” exists throughout the industry.