Committee has studied Aircraft Certification for almost a year
Transportation & Infrastructure will vote on HR 4804, 11/17/2020
After a long investigation, the bipartisan leadership of the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee has introduced an 85 page bill intended to reform what was wrong with the certification process as evidenced by the Boeing 737 Max 8 certification.
Below is a brief summary of the DeFazio/Graves ‘Aircraft Certification Reform and Accountability Act’. Perhaps the potentially most impactful provision is an AUTHORIZATION of $27,000,000 for new hires in the aircraft certification organization and $3,000,000 in new training funds for them. Otherwise HR 8402 adds new procedures, oversight and penalties.
Sec. 2. Safety Management Systems.
- The FAA has had this power and has been in the process of issuing rules for TC holders. ADDs: confidential employee reporting system las a code of ethics
Sec. 3. Expert Review of Organization Designation Authorizations for Transport Airplanes.
- The section-by-section summary specifically mentions Boeing, but the statute language (“each holder of an organization designation authorization for the design and production of transport airplanes…”) includes other ODAs for Part 25 entities and there are more than one
- Congress designated 13 very specific categories for the review panel members and the august body will have 22 members, an unwieldy number for a detailed review and given the contrary views of the named candidate categories, exceedingly unlikely that consensus can be reached.
- Further contributing to the possibility that the experts’ opinions will be based on thorough knowledge of TC’s diagnosis of the Section 3(a)(2) criteria, THE REPORT SHALL BE DELIVERED TO THE ADMINISTRATOR WITHIN 270 DAYS!!!
- The ACRAA provides for a Report plus as many dissenting opinions as may be filed.
- Access powers and proprietary information protections are specified.
- The DeFazio-Graves bill specifies that the Administrator may, based on the Report, “may limit, suspend, or terminate an organization designation authorization” and may also reinstate an ODA.
⇒ Existing 49 U.S. Code § 44702 and 14 CFR Part 183, Subpart J ALREADY EMPOWER THE ADMINISTRATOR TO DO THIS. WHY this unnecessary addition? Congressional foreshadowing???
- Section 3 also mandates that the Administrator report to Congress on results of this review
Sec. 4. Certification Oversight Staff.
- Perhaps the most significant proposal (NB: T&I may only authorize such funds; Appropriations only may fund this) amendment of the ACRAA—adding staff to the FAA offices responsible for overseeing the ODA holder
- Authorizes $27,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2021 through 2023 in new appropriations for the FAA to recruit and retain engineers, safety inspectors, human factors specialists, software and cybersecurity experts, and other qualified technical experts who perform duties related to the certification of aircraft, engines, and other components. Clarifies that nothing in this section 2 vests in any exclusive bargaining representative any management right of the FAA Administrator, and any action taken under this section is subject to the availability of appropriations
Sec. 5. Disclosure of Safety-Critical Information.
- Another dramatic change—authorizing a $1,000,000 civil penalty for failing to disclose “safety-critical information” [defined in 250 words in 5 subsections of 49USC] and other failure to communicate.
- Requires that any aircraft flight manual and flight crew operating manual contain a description of such a system and flight crew procedures for responding to a failure or aberrant operation of such system. Imposes up to a $1 million civil penalty for a violation of the disclosure requirements. Directs the FAA to revoke an airline transport pilot certificate held by an individual who fails to disclose such safety-critical information on behalf of a manufacturer. Repeals unused FAA design and production organization certification authorities.
- $1,000,000 in civil penalties can be assessed for failure to communicate
- NEWLY DISCOVERED INFORMATION
- AIRCRAFT SYSTEM DEVELOPMENT CHANGES.
- FLIGHT MANUALS
Sec. 6. Periodic Reviews of Organization Designation Authorizations.
- Every 7 years (as in the 7-year itch?) as opposed to at the end of a specific designation? With a specified period for the next review, would the ODA spend a lot of Year 6 cleaning things up?
Sec. 7. Limitations on Delegation.
- Codifies an existing FAA policy that prohibits, with some exceptions, FAA delegation to an aircraft manufacturer the ability to certify on behalf of the agency the design of a “novel or unusual design feature” that results in a major change to an aircraft type design. The FAA may delegate such a matter when the FAA Administrator determines it is a routine task, or when, during the course of the certification process, the Administrator determines it no longer relates to a novel or unusual design feature. This section also prohibits FAA delegation of a certification function to a manufacturer solely because the agency lacks the qualified personnel or expertise to handle the function internally.
- $27,000,000 not enough?
- Beginning one year after the date of enactment of this Act, requires the FAA Administrator to approve each new individual selected by an ODA holder engaged in the design of an aircraft, aircraft engine, propeller, or appliance before they become an authorized representative (or ODA unit member), who are employees of a manufacturer granted special permission to act on the FAA’s behalf in validating compliance of aircraft systems and designs with FAA requirements [existing Part 183 Subpart J requires that the ODA maintain a manual, available to the FAA, which lists the unit’s employees’ names.].
- Requires new ODA unit members to meet qualifications issued by the Administrator, such as the knowledge, technical proficiency, and moral character of such individual. Authorizes the FAA Administrator to rescind an approval of an approved individual to serve as an ODA unit member at any time, for any reason.
- Notwithstanding the applicability of this section to new ODA unit members, directs the FAA to complete a review of each current Boeing ODA unit member to ensure each individual meets the agency’s minimum qualifications ( 200 words in 6 categories) issued under this section.
- Authorizes $3,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2021 through 2023 in new appropriations for the FAA to ensure adequate staffing and resources necessary to undertake the work required under this section.
- Imposes a civil penalty for any individual employed by an ODA holder who interferes with (e.g., harasses, berates, or threatens) an ODA unit member’s performance of authorized functions on behalf of the FAA and requires all ODA unit members to promptly report any cases of interference experienced or witnessed at a company.
- Creates a process for lateral communications so that FAA employees with certification responsibilities may directly contact non-managerial employees of an aircraft manufacturer for consultation regarding the certification of aircraft design, production, and other matters.
T&I Leaders Unveil Bipartisan Legislation to Strengthen FAA’s Certification Process and Improve the Regulatory System
It has been strongly rumored that the FAA will reauthorize operations of the Boeing 737 Max 8 on November 18, 2020. That action should close one of the most painful aircraft certificate process in aviation history.
US legislators have unveiled a comprehensive bill that seeks to reform and improve the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) certification and regulatory processes.
Named the ‘Aircraft Certification Reform and Accountability Act’, the 85-page bipartisan legislation features 27 different sections. [H.R. 8408]
It was introduced by House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chair Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Ranking Members Sam Graves (R-MO) and Garret Graves (R-LA) and Subcommittee on Aviation Chair Rick Larsen (D-WA).
The bill directs the FAA administrator to require certain safety standards relating to aircraft, as well as for other purposes.
Certain the aspects the bill covers include new requirements for disclosing safety-critical information, reinforce protection for whistleblowers, strengthens civil penalties for regulatory violations, directs the FAA to set global standards to enhance pilot training, and more.
The proposed legislation also authorizes $27m for each fiscal year from 2021 through 2023 in new appropriations.
This will be used by the FAA to hire and maintain certification-related personnel such as engineers, safety inspectors, human factors specialists, software, technical and cybersecurity experts, and others.
The new legislation follows after the US House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure released its final 238-page report on the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft earlier this month.
DeFazio said: “For the past 18 months, the Boeing 737 MAX has been synonymous with the tragic loss of 346 innocent people, a broken safety culture at Boeing, and grossly insufficient oversight by the FAA.
“With the comprehensive legislation we are unveiling today, I believe history can also show this was the moment Congress stepped up to meaningfully address the gaps in the regulatory system for certifying aircraft and adopt critical reforms that will improve public safety and ensure accountability at all levels going forward.
“I look forward to quickly moving our bipartisan bill through Committee and sending this bill to the Senate.”
13 Unions—FAA employees (inspectors, safety specialists), pilots, flight attendants, mechanics, Boeing engineers—support HR 8408
Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA), Allied Pilots Association (APA), AFA-CWA (Association of Flight Attendants-CWA), CAPA (Coalition of Airline Pilots Association) International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), IFPTE (International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers)International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), Professional Aviation Safety Specialists (PASS), SPEEA (Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace), SWAPA (Southwest Airlines Pilots Association), Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO (TTD) and Transport Workers Union (TWU) are supporting the bill.
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