FAA Emergency Revocation
ALJ reverses, full Board affirms
Narrow band between Compliance and Enforcement
As was recently noted here, the FAA bared its Enforcement Teeth in AeroBearings Revocation Order and that was a significant action distinguishing inadvertent errors, for which the Compliance Philosophy should be applied, from violations which merit formal Enforcement Action. In that the FAA is transitioning from its old punitive policy to a more collaborative approach, taking emergency REVOCATION order against AeroBearings was an important demarcation within the certificate holder’s error-intentional continuum (black to white). Since an elite legal team was established to make such distinctions, one would have expected that the case was solidly in the black.
Thus, the opinion of NTSB Administrative Law Judge William Mullins reversing AeroBearing’s Revocation was surprising. He concluded the Part 145 organization did not have the data, which was the basis for the FAA action; however, the MRO was following procedures that FAA had approved, both initially and in follow-up inspections—including a special audit in December 2015. Thus, he decided that the revocation was not supported by the facts. [As reported by Sean Broderick.]
All but Chairman Sumwalt agreed that the revocation was appropriate. The below quotes, explaining the two Members’ rational, were obtained from Mr. Broderick’s follow-on article:
- “The argument that the machines are working as designed because the bearings are repaired and inspected within acceptable ranges, is not persuasive…”
- “NTSB also found justification for FAA’s records-falsification findings, based largely on what it said was “missing information” on four 8130-3s cited by the agency. The 8130-3s indicated that AeroBearings performed work based on engine maintenance instructions, citing specific sections in CFM International, GE, and Pratt & Whitney manuals. But the forms did not explicitly state that some work was also done based on the mil-spec.”
- “’The Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) require the records to be clear on their face,’ NTSB wrote in its decision. ‘It should not be up to the end user to have to request whether the maintenance records they possess are the complete set of records–that is the reason for maintaining scrupulously accurate records.’”
- “Repair stations are required to include 8130-3s along with parts they have inspected or repaired. The one-page forms are not complete maintenance records,and are not meant to provide details on what was done to parts–they simply verify that the work performed is airworthy.”
NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt disagreed with the falsification charge as well as the decision to revoke the certificate. The Chairman was of the opinion that “an incomplete statement is not the same as a knowingly false one. ‘The majority would apparently find that any failure to be ‘scrupulously accurate’ in a mechanic’s logbook would foreclose the ability of a respondent to subsequently argue that he or she did not knowingly make a false entry.”
Sumwalt made a telling comment that sounded more like the FAA’s Compliance Philosophy than the FAA’s Revocation did. The Chairman suggested that AeroBearings’ Part 145 certificate should have been suspended until it can demonstrate compliance with the FARs by reproducing the missing data lost on the computer–something the repair station says it could do. By revocking the authority, AeroBearings will have to complete the more demanding certificate-reapplication process as a predicate to new authority. [That assumes that the FAA will not view revocation as a bar to reauthorization.]
The narrow edge of distinction–between what the FAA deems worthy of compliance action versus what merits enforcement—is an added, if not subtle, incentive for certificate holders to adhere closely to the FARs. At a minimum, the AeroBearings decision sends the message of consulting with the FAA about any “gray” area, even if you think that a prior review approved it. Most savvy company experts know what’s in that netherland betwixt the antipodes of right and wrong.
LESSON: BE CAREFUL! yes, Compliance is gentler, but its mean appears to be narrow. Beyond the range, HAS CONSEQUENCES.
Share this article: