AVIATION SAFETY NEWSLETTER
Thought for the month.....
If a rewritten regulation is better than the original,
it's probably because something was left out, not added.
Change is good - I think.... If you don't believe the FAA doesn't
care what you think, then you've never commented on rule change proposals. I wish I had a dime (a penny adjusted
for inflation) for every time I heard someone say that the FAA is always rewriting the rules. I used to think
that was the case as well. The truth of the matter however, is that the rule writers in the FAA aren't that prolific.
Rewriting regulations takes a long time unless it is done under an emergency situation.
A good example of how long it can take to rewrite a rule is the change that the FAA planned to implement this month for CFR Part 145, certified repair stations. I first heard of the proposal to change this rule when I came into the FAA in September 1991. About a year or so later I read the proposed new regulations. Being a new inspector in the FAA, I thought I should start spreading the word about these new rules. I was cautioned by those more senior inspectors not to be so gung-ho about telling the repair stations anything yet. They told me that there would be plenty of time to get the information out. They were right.
While rules may not change that often, FAA policy does. I had a discussion a couple weeks ago with an EAA chapter member regarding the changing rules of the FAA. He asked me about certifying a Wright Flyer replica he is constructing, and said that he had built several amateur built airplanes but it had been almost 10 years since he had had one certified. After explaining the process to him I asked if there was much change since his last certification project. His response was, as I expected, that he really didn't remember but it didn't matter because the rules are always changing anyway.
As I mentally reviewed the regulation for issuing Special Airworthiness Certificates, I quickly came to the conclusion that the only changes since 1991 for experimental aircraft was to add two more categories, the primary category aircraft and kit-built aircraft. Neither of these regulation changes affected amateur-built aircraft. What policy or procedure changes I did recall though, were not numerous. Since 1991 the only changes I could remember were the policies of co-issuing Phase I and Phase II Operating Limitations instead of having the applicant return to the certifying official for Phase II; permitting major changes to be only recorded in the maintenance records; and adding a 5 hour additional flight test period instead of making a new application for recertification.
Regulation changes are no small feat and for this reason don't happen too frequently. To change or make a new regulation the process calls for a notice for a "Notice for Proposed Rule Making (NPRM)", a public comment period usually for 90 days, a review period of public comments, then the interim of time from publishing the rule to implementation of the rule. Sometimes the public comment period is extended which adds time to change process. This whole process can take and usually does take at least 12 months or longer.
To get an idea of how long these time frames can be you can open the web site http://www1.faa.gov/avr/arm/nprm.cfm?nav=nprm. NPRM's and final rule notices are listed there. Look at the date that the notices for proposals were published.
Contrary to popular belief, the FAA isn't big on changing rules just for change sake. It's a very long process to go through. However, as we saw after 9/11, when there is an immediate safety related need, or if the security of our national airspace is in jeopardy, the bureaucratic process kicks in and rules may change relatively quickly.
Just remember, policies come and policies go but when a new rule or a change to one becomes necessary the process requires the FAA to solicit public comment. All comments are given due consideration and are responded to by the FAA. It isn't uncommon to see the FAA agreeing with a commentator and adjusting or changing the NPRM based on sound reasoning from the commentator's input. So you see the FAA really does care what you think.
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