The Aeronautical Repair Station Association (ARSA) has submitted a letter to the FAA regarding the agency’s proposed interpretation of the Part 121 duty and rest provisions as they pertain to maintenance technicians. According to Sarah MacLeod, ARSA’s executive director, the agency’s new position effectively eliminates the language in Part 121.377 that requires one day off during any seven consecutive days “or the equivalent thereof within any one calendar month.” As written in the existing regulation it is possible that a technician could work 26 consecutive days before getting four days off.
In a May 18, 2010 letter to United Technologies the FAA’s legal interpretation states the agency would not consider a work schedule compliant in which maintenance personnel were required to work several consecutive weeks without an uninterrupted, consecutive 24-hour rest period during any seven consecutive days.
The FAA wrote, “This type of schedule (i.e., working 26 days followed by four days off) is contrary to the intent of the regulation, which was designed to mitigate the effects of fatigue for maintenance personnel. Fatigue degrades a person’s ability to work effectively. Some causes of fatigue are sleep deprivation and time spent on duty.”
ARSA asserts that the May 18, 2010 interpretation changes the plain language of the regulation and requested the FAA withdraw it. The FAA subsequently decided against withdrawal but based on ARSA’s request the agency has decided to seek comment from the public on the impact of the interpretation.
“The association isn’t against making provisions for appropriate rest periods for maintenance personnel. The regs should probably be extended to all maintenance technicians, not just those operating under Part 121,” MacLeod told AIN. “The issue is that ARSA will not condone the FAA’s reinterpreting existing regulations when it should be dealing with the issue through the rulemaking process.
“The current rule has plain language–one day off in seven or equivalent time off in a calendar month (four days off in a calendar month). It doesn’t say anything about human factors or exemptions. I’m sorry, but the government doesn’t get to operate that way; it has to follow the rules. If the existing rule needs to be changed, the public should be given the opportunity to comment. To do otherwise is a slippery slope. We don’t necessarily agree with the existing rule but a government agency can’t just interpret rules as it suits them; either follow it or change it,” she concluded.