The FAA’s killing of GA Service Difficulty Reports: inconsistent with data-intense, proactive approaches

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As the FAA introduced new innovative data-capturing systems, like VDRP, SMS, SASO, ASIAS and in particular FOQA (the 1st of these programs), maintenance professionals (particularly those who work under Part 145) may have recognized these new initiatives as Service Difficulty Reports on steroids.


Why, as noted below by AinOnline writers Matt Thurber and Kerry Lynch, has the FAA discontinued their applicability to GA aircraft?

Flight Standards published a memorandum on May 21, 2015, which cancelled AC43-16A, was entitled “Aviation Maintenance Alerts.” As to GA aircraft, that AC encouraged owner/operators, mechanics and other, who found an airworthiness issue or concern, to report that information to the FAA. The thought was that if the FAA accumulated a number of similar SDRs, its staff would begin a process to determine, if there was an underlying structural or mechanical problem, what remedial actions should be taken.


SDRs were not a perfect vehicle for obtaining consistent information about airworthiness. A&P mechanics were known to describe the fault found with differing terms. The time required to fill out the forms was also a deterrent to the creation of SDFs by these busy personnel. The accumulating and interpretation of such hard-to-interpret reports by the FAA limited the forms’ preventative value.


In response the FAA may have mandated the instruction of a standard vocabulary for A&Ps and owners. Maybe further guidance with proper terminology and illustrative pictures would help. In these days of distance learning perhaps a series of videos would edify the target audience. The establishment of this sort of lexicon sounds like a great thesis topic for one of the graduates of the many aviation universities. The FAA obviously did not approve of these and other options.

The next step was a 1999 change in the monthly distribution of Aviation Maintenance Alerts in printed form. The alternative was for the interested GA MX community to search an FAA data base. That domination of the availability of these alerts led to a negative spiral of interest.


The death knell of this imperfect form of information sharing was the Section 313 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. That legislation required the FAA to consult with representatives of the aviation industry, to determine the root causes of inconsistent interpretation of regulations by the Flight Standards Service and Aircraft Certification Service. So AFS cancelled 26 outdated or conflicting ACs and Orders.

Instead of seeking some consistency in the language of SDRs to make them more useful, the FAA decided to cancel this program as to GA aircraft. That seems to be contrary to the direction of the other very successful data-gathering, proactive systems.


AIN Blog: The Tragic Lameness of the SDR Database

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