The Regs: Consistency

By Norm Chalmers — December 04, 2012

Once again, we start out with a letter from a reader. Martin Grechan wrote his “Letter To The Editor” (magazine page 6), and Ian, our editor, parsed a portion to me to use in my column for which I thank him. In the second part of his letter, Martin brings us up to date regarding some of the results of his extensive research regarding his specific aircraft importation. He also brings up some new areas of requirements and perturbation. I suggest you read his letter as an introduction to this.

The Regs: Looking for Consistency among Aviation Regulators

The two significant topical areas that I point out are the technical web of requirements and the communication with the regulator (tewerecore). I believe you will find it all relevant and educational. I have reserved my comments for the end. Read on.  Martin writes:

However, this may have opened another interesting can of worms that you may find interesting. It has to do with my interior furnishings and equipment. But a little background first. My aircraft is serial number 258572, built in 2002. Up until serial number 258582 (10 aircraft after mine), Hawker Beechcraft completed all of their interiors and furnishings using the FAA Form 337 format as previously discussed, since every customer had different custom design features that they requested for their aircraft interior. It was only because the Europeans (EASA) did not accept this form of reporting but demanded that all interiors and furnishings be put on a serialized STC that Hawker Beechcraft finally submitted to and created LSTCs from that point on. If you look at the guidelines on TP13169 – Aircraft Importation Checklist paragraphs 3.1.4 and 3.2.6, they ask for an “approved configuration” based on a review of the type design and approved drawings.

The underlying word here is “approved,” which in my case, up until serial number 258582, Hawker Beechcraft only submitted FAA Form 337s and used Acceptable Data (not approved) to have their aircraft certified and given an American C of A. The irony here is that until a couple of years ago all aircraft were successfully imported into Canada based on the 337 format. How can Transport Canada retroactively demand that I have an LSTC, when at the time of aircraft certification, none existed? This, however, has led to another quagmire.

I bring your attention to the following reference documents:

l       Canadian Airworthiness Manual Chapter 525.809 – Emergency Exit Arrangement

l       FAA Memorandum dated October 17, 2008 (Memo number: ANM-115-08-02)

l       Civil Air Regulation 4b.362, Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) paragraphs 25.803(a), 25.809 (a), (b), (c) and 25.813 (c)

l       Transport Safety Board of Canada Report Number A05Q0024
This deals with the issue of how the industry interpreted the accessibility for exiting the aircraft using the emergency escape hatch/door on transport category aircraft, specifically corporate aircraft, and how the FAA and Transport Canada, up until recently, accepted these alternate means of compliance using placards for stowing the seats which occupy the area adjacent to the escape hatch. In reading the memorandum and with reference to Transport Safety Board of Canada Report Number A05Q0024, it is evident that the industry did not interpret the original mandate of having the access to the escape hatch completely unobstructed. Yet the FAA and Transport Canada up until now still accepted aircraft that had movable seats occupy this space. Now Transport Canada wants to see if my present configuration – which was designed, built, and certified 10 years ago – complies with this “clarification” as mentioned in the FAA memorandum. In retrospect, it can, but it would leave the amenities of the cabin configuration, as well as passenger comfort, in disarray.

My operations people rightly conclude that if we are forced to comply with this request, then too should all other aircraft owners who have the same configuration. Our argument is, if Transport Canada wishes to make this unobstructed configuration mandatory they should issue a blanket Airworthiness Directive to all aircraft owners and operators to ensure that their cabin configuration complies with the initial intent of the standard as mentioned above and rejects all previous methods of compliance which used wording to arrange the seating for take-off and landing, and during emergencies.

Though I fully agree with the intent of the letter of the memorandum on a safety standpoint, I also believe that the owner/operator should not be made to correct the misgivings of the aviation authority with regard to older aircraft (prior to 2008) which have their interiors fashioned contrary to the information in the memorandum dated in 2008. Just as a footnote, on a recent visit to a Hawker Beechcraft maintenance facility in the US, I was able to look into the interior of a recent Hawker 850 that was just two years old (built 2010). It had the same configuration as mine, with placards placed on the seat adjacent to the escape hatch instructing the occupant on take-off and landing seat positions. This aircraft was still given an FAA C of A, which to me, means that neither the FAA nor its representatives follow their own memorandums and interpretations. Where does this leave us today?

I thank you once again for shedding light on some contentious issues. I know both government and industry should be on the same page, but often too many exceptions can lead into this kind of misinformation, and ultimately can create costs, both with regard to financial and human issues.

­— Martin Grechan
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
Thank you very much, Martin, for sharing that with us. Not many AMEs or other maintenance professionals do this amount of research. This is an excellent example of the lack of consistency amongst our aviation regulators. This has always been a problem, and always will be, as long as Transport Canada continues on its path of antiquated personnel management. TC does not train their inspectors adequately in these areas and has no quality assurance program similar to the one they impose on aviation. Maybe we can work together to raise the bar a bit at a time but that’s up to the politicians.

There’s one rant down, so back to business with my comments on the tewerecore.

The usage of the 337 form has almost as many variations as numbers of users. It ranges from the manufacturer using it as a mechanism to record changes to what one RS-DER told me, saying it’s “only for field approvals”. The 8110-3 has been less abused in the past, but with the FAA’s changes in the US, I have already seen confusage (confused usage). In the “good old days” when an aircraft came into Canada new from the factory with less that 50 hours on it, we issued the Certificate of Airworthiness with only the briefest of inspections, looking only at the data plates of the aircraft, engines and props. We assumed that the factories knew more than we did. The requirements for what we now consider “Approved Data” have been very flexible. In the US, the FAA had a program for airlines to be able to make major changes without calling them “Major” and thus avoiding bureaucracy and fees. Importing these airline-type aircraft, looking only for major repairs and alterations approvals, are the stuff of nightmares.

Regarding the requirements for approved configuration, this is a unique area of aircraft design and approval. Normally the seats, bulkheads, passenger convenience items, cargo tie-downs etc., are all approved, and the attachment system is approved. Attachment systems usually allow the items to be moved, providing for different configurations. For that, we usually go to the flight manual (or type certificate data sheet) which normally allows various positions for this stuff. If requirements of those documents are satisfied, then all you need to do is create an empty weight and balance document for each configuration. The reference for that is Standard 571, Appendix C.

Regarding aircraft that vary from Canadian requirements when approved in the US, Transport Canada often created exemptions to the requirement, the mention of which which can usually be found in the Canadian type certificate data sheet under the title Basis of Certification. The actual wording and content of these documents are buried in the docket files in Ottawa. The caretakers of that information are the people in the Aircraft Certification group.

Regarding retro requirements, for each of your aircraft, the type design and type certificate data sheets approved for your aircraft back when it was built are still in effect. The FAA approved the type certificate with all the attached support data, including configuration and assembly drawings. The FAA approved Hawker Beechcraft to manufacture the aircraft in accordance with those assembly drawings. If the drawings were wrong, then it was a design data problem. If the aircraft as assembled did not conform to those drawings but was approved, and a Certificate of Airworthiness was issued, then it was a manufacturer approval problem. With either situation, every aircraft affected needs to be included in any action being considered.

As I stated before, the requirements are specified in the “Basis Of Certification”. Here our example has been FAR 25, way back when. Subsequent changes to the type certificate data sheet, adding more models, do not change your requirements, as they remain locked in time. If your basis of certification is a US document, the FAA (bless their hearts) have made our task of finding this information easy-peasy. Go to the FAA web site under FAA Regulations http://www.faa.gov/regulations_policies/faa_regulations/ and select Historical CARs or FARs as applicable and work down to the applicable document and date you want. That is really drilling down into the requirements. For most situations, the type certificate data sheets will provide the starting point, with interior configuration information and references to the flight manual.

In his letter, Martin mentioned the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) Report Number A05Q0024. Often accident and accident reports point out weaknesses in the original aircraft design. Others point out errors in the original manufacturing and approval process. Governments can make design changes mandatory, not by making changes to the original type design, but by issuing Airworthiness Directives. Ergo, without an AD, there is no retroactive change. Note that in this case the original Certificate of Airworthiness would have been issued by an FAA designee/delegate which complexifies things. If numbers of aircraft were manufactured or altered/modified, certified, and released to service when they did not comply with requirements, the Civil Aviation Authorities (CAA) logically must take comprehensive corrective action. It is apparent from the TSB accident report that TC has known about this issue since 2005 but decided that it was not a safety or regulatory issue. They did nothing. In other subject areas, the Ottawa headquarters groups do not know what to do, so they dump it on the regional inspectors and say “do your job”. No decisions are forthcoming until the client starts legal action against TC. There are a variety of terms that come to mind, including errors and omissions, due diligence and screw-ups. The root cause is often poor or non-existent training and the lack of time to do a good job. Basic training for inspectors in the details of approving company manuals, inspecting aircraft and most other activities, is left up to the on-the-job trainers. That way, everybody makes the same mistakes.

When a diligent TC inspector stirs up a ghost of past mistakes, it is often ignored in hopes that it will go away. TC generally has three levels of action to deal with problems:

1.    Do nothing, ignore it and it will go away.

2.    Divert the problem by writing a 300-word letter,

avoiding the issue. Note: letters do not need to be

fatuous or incomprehensible, but often are.

3.    Do something.

In the last paragraph of his letter, Martin writes: “neither the FAA nor its representatives follow their own memorandums and interpretations. Where does this leave us today?”

Add TC and all the other CAAs to the list of offenders. That my friends, is my bread-and-butter for this column.

It leaves us in the position of requiring reasonable resolutions. To the credit of TC management, they raised the issue up a notch. In some cases, we need to keep going up the reporting line at our CAA until we get to a level authorized to make a decision. If the minister asks me for my thoughts on this (we know that will never happen) I believe that an AD ought to have been issued in 2005 in reaction to the TSB accident report. My ongoing concern is that another aircraft accident will happen and people will die because the exit is blocked by furnishings. In this case, it is incumbent on the FAA and TC to deal with this at a high level. Make the stuff removable, folding, or some other clever solution, but do something, and get it done.

Now for something different, but related. TC has discarded the term “Limited Supplemental Type Certificate” (L/STC) and now limits application of approvals by issuing STCs with serial numbers of the aircraft or Serialized STCs. This follows the paths beaten by the FAA and Europeans.

And now for something completely different. In August I wrote to the TSB, pointing out that many reports are issued without drilling down to root causes. Many reports just blame the pilots. The TSB response told me how wonderful their investigator training is, but avoided answering my complaint. The TSB report mentioned above is a good example of the blame- and-train philosophy. Recently published reports A11O0098, A11O0222, and A11C0102 blame the pilots. A11Q0028 mentions lack of training but blames pilots. Report A11C0079 puts the blame on diamonds (look that up). Report A11C0100 refers to pilot workload and aerodynamic stalls, insinuating that pilot error was the issue, as does report A10Q0218.

The TSB needs to drill down to the root causes of these accidents. They have done this in the past, and for this I give you the example of report A05P0227.

With Safety Management Systems (SMS) and Program Validation Inspections (PVI), TC is pushing every aviation company to do root-cause analysis by asking why, and in doing so, is drilling down into company management (corporate culture) until they reach one or more causes. By correcting or removing the causal elements, the problem will not happen again. I agree with the TSB that they have very well trained investigators who do amazing work, as evidenced by all the above-mentioned reports, but not one of them reaches the root cause(s) as envisioned by the TC SMS propaganda.

If the TSB is suffering from the same hacking and slashing of personnel numbers, qualifications and training as is TC, then what we see now is the way of the future: erosion of the good parts of the status quo.

As I have stated before, aviation as a form of public transportation is viewed by government as safe enough. The regulations are good enough. The implementation is good enough: no more money, onward with SMS/PVIs, and regulation by edict from the sensory deprived Tower Of Darkness.

On that uplifting thought, I leave you with my final and inevitable but important paragraph.
Please be aware that I am not a lawyer or legal expert. What I write in my column is not legal advice or legal opinion. If you face a legal issue, you must get specific legal advice from a lawyer and preferably one with experience in the aviation matters in your own country.

About The Author

Norm Chalmers

NORM CHALMERS worked with Transport Canada as an Airworthiness Inspector for 25 years. Before this, from 1967 to 1983, he worked in the aircraft maintenance industry in and around Western Canada and in the Arctic. His industry experience includes the operational maintenance of normal and commuter category aircraft and smaller transport category aircraft in the corporate sector as well as several years working in major repairs in the helicopter sector. As an Airworthiness Inspector, he has been responsible for most duties related to the position, including the approval of all aspects of maintenance, manufacturing, training, and responsibilities related to distribution organizations. Norm now operates Pacific Airworthiness Consulting; www.pacificairworthiness.ca

View all articles by Norm Chalmers.

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