FAA proposes change to IA renewal policy

 - November 30, 2010, 6:26 AM

The FAA has issued a proposed policy change that would clarify the definition of the words “actively engaged” as it relates to application for and renewal of the Inspection Authorization (IA) certificate. Airframe and powerplant mechanics (A&Ps) can qualify to take the IA test if they have held the mechanic certificate for at least three years and have been “actively engaged” as a mechanic for the previous two years. The two-year actively engaged requirement also applies to IAs who want to renew their certificate, which expires after two years.

According to the FAA, “an individual must be actively engaged, for at least the prior two-year period, in maintaining aircraft to be eligible to either obtain or renew an IA.” In the past, FAA aviation safety inspectors have allowed IAs who don’t work on the shop floor or who don’t work full-time with aircraft to renew after complying with the minimum annual eight-hour training requirement.

One estimate, from a commenter on the new policy, puts the number of IAs at about 22,000 and suggests that 60 percent of these IAs are not employed full-time. Like flight instructors, many IAs maintain their certificate’s currency because once they give it up, they must endure an onerous process to regain the certification.

However, flight ­instructors can renew their certificates every two years by either qualifying a minimum number of new pilots or by completing 16 hours of training. IAs must not only meet the minimum ­qualifying requirement (a certain number of inspections and/or major repairs or alterations or 16 hours of training every two years) but also the actively engaged standard. There is no similar actively engaged requirement for flight instructors.

End to IA Recognition

Under the new policy, this could mean that many flight department or maintenance department managers might have to relinquish their IA certificates. While this might not seem like a large issue to the FAA, some believe that it will have a negative effect on the morale of the maintenance community.

The Aircraft Electronics Association (AEA) noted that it “is disappointed with this ‘labor saving’ initiative. For decades, the FAA, as well as industry, has been frustrated by the lack of career recognition of the airframe and powerplant mechanic. And now, the FAA proposes to remove this recognition from those who are in senior management positions with corporate flight departments, repair stations and air carriers who are not exercising their A&P privileges to ‘inspect, overhaul, repair, preserve or replace parts on aircraft.’”

Aviation associations–including the NBAA, NATA, AEA, Professional Aviation Maintenance Association and AMT-Society–are aware of the proposed policy change and are developing their own comments to add to the docket. Comments were due by December 6.