This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.
As the Covid-19 pandemic drags on, the National Air Transportation Association (NATA) has turned to the FAA seeking longer-term relief for Part 135 from some key regulatory deadlines surrounding observation checks. In petitions for exemption published in the September 1 Federal Register, NATA asked the FAA to extend the deadline for a Part 135 check airman to undergo an observation check by an FAA inspector or designated examiner from 24 to 36 months. The association similarly has asked the FAA to extend the deadline for an instructor to undergo an observation check by an FAA inspector, operator check airman, or aircraft designated examiner from 24 to 36 months. Comments on both petitions, which were revised after the agency sought further detail, are due September 8.
The petitions included in the FAA notices follow myriad extensions the agency has granted from aeromedical, training, proficiency, and other deadlines as the industry has grappled with an inability to travel and/or delays in lining up FAA-qualified inspectors to meet the requirements.
“The current restrictions on FAA inspector travel (as described to our members by FAA employees), requirements for social distancing, and individual health concerns have significantly hampered the ability of the operators to maintain instructor currency,” the association told the agency.
Most Part 135 operators are small businesses with one or two aircraft and 90 percent have fewer than 10 aircraft, NATA said. “For the significant number of these small operators, the FAA has not authorized them aircrew designated examiners, forcing the operator to rely solely on FAA inspectors to perform the required 24-month check. This significantly reduced pool of authorized individuals available makes it virtually impossible to comply with [FAR] 135.339(a)(2), hence our request for relief.”
NATA noted the agency’s efforts to grant appropriate relief and said, “As the impact of the national health emergency continues, additional relief is appropriate.”
The association further suggests certain conditions to ensure that the extension still meets the intent of the original requirements.