In recent months, we have seen a dramatic move by the FAA to new requirements such as “Job Aids” and “Compliance Guides”. In my initial reaction, I was excited because it seemed a positive step to setting acceptable standards we can all use for the submission of information to FAA Field Offices, but my positive reaction turned quickly into utter disappointment.
Not long after the implementation of the “Job Aids”, usually the responsibility of the FAA Inspector to complete to determine acceptable compliance, was then made a requirement for the operator to complete so that it lessen the burden of the “overworked” and “short staffed” FAA Field Inspectors. So reluctantly the industry followed their lead and started submitting completed “Job Aids” with Applications for Approvals. However, then individual offices started adding their own requirements in addition to the “Job Aids”. These Office Specific “Job Aids” were not supported nationwide but in some cases even limited to individual inspectors.
One nice factor that was provided in the FSIMS 8900.1 was the ability to make submissions electronically but again, this currently is not supported on a National Basis. The unfortunate nature of this problem is even more compounded by the fact that you do not know which FSDO is or is not accepting electronic submissions until you call to check on the status. It is not unusual to be told, “Oh, we do not take electronic submissions because it is too hard to move it around the office and to keep track of it”. Didn’t realize email was so tough to work with, or the ability to use their printer to make paper copies was so over welling.
The we came to Nextgen and operations related to Nextgen such as Data Link, PBCS, RNP-10, RNP-4. The bottle neck created by the lack of knowledge of Inspectors, the race to catch up with the requirements established by ICAO, the Airlines and the rest of the Regulatory Authorities and you witness a disaster in the making. What’s the FAA solution to this fiasco? Simple, the FAA eliminates the Regions and centralizes the process to so called “Nextgen Specialists”. In this situation, the local FSDO only functions as a conduit in Application submissions, yet even Nextgen Specialists need to standardize what they are looking for, so they create a Kingdom and start creating something new, a “Compliance Guide”. The first Compliance Guide created by the Kingdom is known as “Data Link Communications Compliance Guide” which was released in October 2017. Just a couple of problems here, first, no one knows about it unless you make a submission, secondly, it has been revised 9 times in the first 8 months of usage, but more importantly, no one knows when it is revised other then the FAA or organizations like ourselves who spend hours searching this information out. The real disappointment of some of the questions contain in the Compliance Guide, why are we answering equipment questions that the aircraft was already approved AIR during certification. There should be no challenge to AIR or the FAA has its own internal problems. This is also true of AFM Supplements inserted by STC for equipment changes since these have been approved by Engineering or the MIDO (AIR). If this is not bad enough, the real problem is today, we have operators who have made submissions over 4 months previously, have not heard any comments from the FAA FSDO or Nextgen and now they receive phone calls telling them that their submission is being sent back because the Compliance Guide has been revised and they need to re-do their paperwork for submission. I can only respond with the same response my clients are giving me, “Are you F*&%$#ing Kidding Me”?
In the B034 and B054 Compliance Guide we are now asking operators to obtain copies of the Type 2 Letter of Acceptance (LOA) from the Manufacturer of the FMS to indicate proper operation of the NAV database. Isn’t enough that the Manufacturers are approved by AIR when they develop the equipment for certification? Why should an operator be required to prove it once again to Flight Technologies and Procedures Division.
I wonder if the members of AFS-400, “Flight Technologies and Procedures Division” are realizing just how much they destroying the reputation of the FAA and its individual Inspectors? Maybe a better approach would have been to educate the FAA Inspectors and provide the Training Programs they truly need. Why are we asking the individual operators to have training programs when the FAA does not provide the same training to its Inspectors?
D095 vs. D195 MEL:
Again, confusion and conflicting information surrounds this subject. In the past, if an Operator desired to utilize an MEL, they would simply submit a request the use of the MMEL as an MEL under 14 CFR Part 91.213 (a)(2) and it would be granted. Sometimes in accordance with the Handbook (8900.1) and sometimes by an inspector who just handed the operator a copy of the MMEL. Most of the time, neither the operator or the FAA Inspector ever read the D095 LOA.
A D195 MEL has received an Approval from the FAA Office and is stamped “APPROVED”. A D095 MEL is the use of the MMEL as an MEL with three specific requirements and does not have to be approved by the FAA.
You see, the D095 LOA has very specific requirements, however, trusting operators would simply listen to the local Inspector who would tell him either all he needed was the MMEL, or you will still need a maintenance and operations procedures document so just go to the aircraft manufacturers website and download a copy of their maintenance and operation procedures document, and left it at that.
It doesn’t take a highly educated man to realize this was the beginning of a mountain of problems. Let me explain. Once you receive the LOA (D095) you need to read it. The entire LOA, not just the first paragraph. If you didn’t read the LOA, then I completely understand, because most FAA Inspectors haven’t read it either. You see, in paragraph 2 of the LOA it lists three (3) very specific requirements to maintain the STC in affect. Chances are, if you downloaded the Manufacturers document and placed it on the aircraft, you have in fact violated the LOA (STC). Here, are those requirements. The LOA, the MMEL and the Procedures Document. Paragraphs 3 – 7 describe the contents of the Procedures Document the operator must comply with. Unfortunately, most operators do not comply with all three of these requirements and none of the Manufacturers Documents reviewed to date meet all the requirements found in Paragraphs 3 – 7 of the LOA. Don’t take my word for it, read the LOA. Inspectors, please read the LOA so that you are putting out valid information to operators. There is not a week that goes by, that we are not hearing of or talking to an FAA Inspector who thinks the operator is fine.
This is just my opinion but this is what I think happened. Low and behold, these generic documents started showing up in Europe and SAFO and JAA started realizing the generic nature of these documents and started complaining. Who they complained to the most no one will ever know but ICAO requires an Approved MEL. In simple terms, if you fly outside the 48-contiguous States you are basically required to comply with ICAO rules whichever is the most restrictive so you now must have an Approved MEL. This LOA is known as D195.
If you complied completely with the requirements of D095 you only have two steps to comply with D195. First, change the name of the document from Maintenance and Operation Procedures Document or Procedures Document to Minimum Equipment List. Secondly, submit the document to the FSDO for Approval. Now the real fun begins.
We have one former “Region” of the FAA that tell you right up front that the approval process with take on average 7-months. We have Inspectors looking at the Part 91 MEL as if it is a Part 135 MEL and asking for things that are not required or telling operators to remove informational items from their MEL’s because the FAA Inspector thinks he has such authority, which he doesn’t. As long as the information contained within your MEL is not contrary to the FAR’s, the handbook or less restrictive then the MMEL then the MEL is acceptable. The craziest thing we have heard lately is an Avionics Inspector telling the Part 91 Operator to remove the Part 91 Preamble and replace it with the Part 135 Preamble because that’s what Washington Flight Standards told him to do. Needless to say, we have called Washington and left several messages and still no response from Washington.
This has become a serious joke. Nextgen is now saying they will not complete a Nextgen Application unless the operator has an approved D195, (false requirement). Seven Months to approve an MEL (should only take 3 to 5 days). No one knows which Preamble is required. Inspectors asking to remove informational notes, (false requirement). The other real question in my mind is a bit more complicated for most but simple when you think about it. There is a requirement in the Chicago Convention and contained within most bilateral agreements that ICAO member states will accept the STC’s of other member states. Paragraph 2 of the D095 specifically states that this LOA now “constitute a supplemental type certificate for the aircraft”. So why are we now having to obtain a D195 Approval and subjecting our MEL’s to the “interpretations of inspectors not qualified on individual aircraft”? Could it be that FAA Inspectors did not have proper training to know all of the requirements of the D095 LOA or the authority they actually have in reviewing an MEL for Approval as in the D195 Approval Process?