Revocation based on P145 certificate not include AOA
FAA not include Repair Stations in Compliance Program; within scope of surveillance
Inspection would have detected absence
Seattle Times aerospace reporter
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has shut down Xtra Aerospace of Miramar, Fla., the company that supplied a faulty sensor to Lion Air that triggered the deadly 2018 crash of a 737 MAX, killing 189 people.
The regulator’s revocation of Xtra’s aviation repair station certificate, announced Friday, means Xtra is out of business.
Late Friday, Xtra issued a statement saying that “we respectfully disagree with the agency’s findings.” It added that the revocation of its certificate “is not an indication that Xtra was responsible for the accident.”
The news came the same day that the final investigation report into the Lion Air accident was released Friday by the National Transportation Safety Committee of Indonesia, known by its Indonesian acronym KNKT.
In other responses to that report, Boeing said it is “addressing the KNKT’s safety recommendations,” and in Congress members of both House and Senate vowed to push through legislation to improve regulation of air safety.
Xtra repaired and approved for service a secondhand angle of attack sensor that was installed on the Lion Air jet to replace a faulty one. But according to the final KNKT investigation report, the replacement sensor was mis-calibrated so that the angle it registered was 21 degrees too high.
The FAA revocation order said Xtra “recklessly and systemically” failed to comply with federal safety requirements. The order was issued on the day that the KNKT report observed that the FAA’s oversight of Xtra before the crash had been inadequate.
Asked why the FAA had waited until the final investigation report was published to stop the Florida operation, a spokesman for the safety agency said, “it typically takes several months to conduct a thorough investigation, review the findings and determine whether an operator or repair station complied with Federal Aviation Regulations.”
The component that triggered the sequence that led to the Lion Air MAX crash had originally been installed on an older Boeing 737-900ER aircraft in Malaysia and was sent for repair a year earlier to Xtra, where the unit was disassembled and an eroded vane replaced.
Xtra calibrated and tested the component and approved it for return to service in November 2017. It was installed on the Lion Air jet on Oct. 28, the day before the fatal flight.
On Flight 610, the next day, the replacement sensor was off by 21 degrees from the one on the other side of the plane. After the pilot retracted the flaps, Boeing’s new flight control system — MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System) — assumed the angle of attack was too high because of the input from that one bad sensor, and began to push the nose of the aircraft down, leading to the crash.
The KNKT report states that the sensor “was most likely improperly calibrated at Xtra Aerospace.” The company’s procedures did not include an extra check required to validate the calibration. The report notes that the FAA missed this, though it is responsible for overseeing quality control at aircraft component suppliers.
Press Release – FAA Revokes Repair Station Certificate of Xtra Aerospace of South Florida
October 25, 2019
Contact: Kathleen Bergen
Phone: 404-305-5100; Email: Kathleen.Bergen@FAA.GOV
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an order today revoking the repair station certificate of Xtra Aerospace, LLC, of Miramar, Fla.
According to the order, Xtra failed to comply with requirements to repair only aircraft parts on its list of parts acceptable to the FAA that it was capable of repairing. The company also failed to comply with procedures in its repair station manual for implementing a capability list in accordance with the Federal Aviation Regulations. Xtra is a repair station certificated under part 145 of the Federal Aviation Regulations.
The FAA began its investigation in November 2018. Investigators looked specifically at the company’s compliance with regulatory requirements that apply to its capability list, and records and work orders for aircraft parts it approved for return to service. The investigation determined that from November 2009 until May 2019, Xtra failed to complete and retain records in accordance with procedures in its repair station manual to support parts on its capability list. The company also did not substantiate that it had adequate facilities, tools, test equipment, technical publications, and trained and qualified employees to repair parts on its capability list.
The agency issued the order as part of a settlement agreement with the company. Under the agreement, Xtra waives its right to appeal the revocation to the National Transportation Safety Board or any court.
The FAA transition from ENFORCEMENT to COMPLIANCE has not yet extended to Part 145 organizations; so, Xtra should have been subject to regular surveillance. The below sampling of enforcement and revocation actions indicates that the FAA surveillance program is in the business of finding violations and enforcing against repair stations. See these examples;
compliance, Enforcement, FAA August 27, 2018
An inspection of a repair station may require an extensive review of the competence of the staff on the floor, a machine-by-machine assessment of the machines’ calibration, a page-by-page reading of the manuals or a number of other detailed examinations.
With the benefit of the KNKT report, it would that an inspection of Xtra would have found the ineligibility of the Miramar facility to repair an AOA merely by comparing its authorization against the company’s inventory. According to the KNKT research, the article which was involved in the Loin Air crash had been in Xtra’s Part 145’s inventory for a while. An inspector’s review of Xtra’s authorized repair list would have shown an AOA should neither have been in the company’s stores nor repaired in the Miramar facility.
The KNKT analysis did not find the AOA to be the probable cause, but the above story suggests that the FAA MUST reinvigorate its surveillance of domestic Part 145s. The Flight Standards organization is in the midst of reorganization; so, it is not 100% clear to the outside world where the responsibility lies. Here is a map of all of the Flight Standards’ offices:
 Chairman DeFazio has repeatedly asserted that the FAA has not assigned adequate personnel to cover foreign repair stations. The FAA may now have to move some of its inspectors back to the US.
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