FAA Regulatory Consistency Communication Board (RCCB)
Will the 7,000 who apply the FARs follow its directives?
Do the math—there are about 3,500 pages in 14 CFR devoted to FAA regulations; there are thousands more documents which help interpret those rules (Orders, Handbooks, ACs, FSIMS, etc.); then recognize that there are about 7,000 people who are regularly called on to apply those safety rules to specific certificate holders.
The FARs govern the compliance of:
- Large Part 121 carriers that fly between a fairly fixed set of cities in a range of weather (Artic cold, tropical moisture, mountainous terrain, etc.) with Boeing’s/Airbus’ most technically advanced aircraft as well as far less sophisticated airplanes).
- Smaller Part 125 airlines which rarely operate at the same airports.
- Part 135 charter aircraft that launch on demand with a fleet subject to change.
- Commuter air carriers which typically land/take off more on a daily basis than others.
- Manufacturers for airframes (commercial & GA), powerplants, avionics, etc.
- Repair stations.
- Cockpit and Cabin professionals.
The potential array of interpretations is by definition a massive scatter diagram. Some of the variation is attributed to statistical probabilities, but some differences derive from local practices, individual perspectives or a host of other external factors.
After years of complaints from every segment of aviation, GAO studies and other critiques, Congress enacted the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, in which the FAA was directed to study the problem and it created Consistency of Regulatory Interpretation Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC). That group recommended that a Regulatory Consistency Communication Board should be established.
This Board is populated by representatives from Flight Standards, Aircraft Certification, and the Office of the Chief Counsel. Its mission is “to provide clarification to internal and external stakeholders on questions related to the application of regulations.” The RCCB is expected to assess, determine the root causes of, and provide recommendations to reduce inconsistent interpretation and application of regulations.
Peggy Gilligan, as one of her last acts and part of her legacy, signed Order 8000.70. To define the RCCB’s purpose, appropriate issues, participants, “working collaboratively,” issue submission, process timeframes, distribution of the RCCB determination and performance monitoring consumed 13 pages of single-spaced verbiage.
This is a diagram which defines how the RCCB will track the degree to which their guidance is followed in the field:
Industry responses included:
“NATAapplauds the FAA’s release of the order putting forward the board’s purpose, responsibilities, and how stakeholders are to utilize it,” said John McGraw, director of regulatory affairs for NATA, which was a co-chair of the CRI-ARC. “[Lack of] consistent application of regulations and policy is something that has plagued the industry for a long time. We appreciate the agency’s work with stakeholders to operationalize the RCCB that will provide high level guidance to inspectors and industry on issues where there is difference of opinion in interpretation.”
“We commend the FAA on the formation of the RCCB, which will be a welcome mechanism to help standardize agency responses and interpretations to regulations, particularly those coming from Flight Standards District Offices,” said David Norton, an aviation attorney and member of NBAA’s Domestic Operations Committee. Norton, who also served as the industry co-chair of the RVSM Process Enhancement Team, said that NBAA members will benefit from the RCCB, which operates under clear and comprehensive guidelines and under specific timelines.
Dr. Gerald Dillingham, GAO
At a March 23 hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, Dr. Gerald Dillingham, director of physical infrastructure issues for the Government Accountability Office (GAO), reported on the FAA’s progress towards certification process reform and improvements to consistency in rulemaking interpretation…
While he was generally positive about the agency’s performance, Dillingham did note – based on industry feedback gathered by GAO – that he was reporting the completion of tasks and recommendations. It remains to be seen how those headquarters-level actions will translate into continuing improvement for certificate holders.
“ARSA has played a key role in the FAA’s certification and consistency improvement efforts, including participation on the Consistency in Rulemaking Interpretation Aviation Rulemaking Committee (CRI ARC). The association will continue to work with the agency, and press it when necessary, to improve its mechanisms for overseeing the maintenance and manufacturing communities.”
WILL THE FIELD FOLLOW THE DIRECTIVE?
The process is well designed and the theory should stop the variability, but will the 7,000 who actually apply the FARs follow?
That’s a major challenge for the New Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety. If the RCCB works, then the FARs will become standard.
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