The FAA is proposing to simplify the application process for airframe and powerplant mechanics seeking inspection authorization (IA) in the interest of making the work of aviation safety inspectors handling those applications simpler.
The FAA proposal is published in the November 5th Federal Register and is intended to help inspectors verify the work experience of applicants who are only employed part-time. The proposal is a revision to the vague and often inconsistently applied requirement for an applicant to be “actively engaged” as an A&P mechanic in order to be granted IA. In the past, part-time mechanics have struggled with this clause due to the vagueness of the language, for which no specific regulatory definition is offered, and the shifting definitions offered by the FAA.
Interest groups are concerned that a policy change could unfairly disqualify specialist mechanics who work on older aircraft, which would create a threat to the safety of flight. Additionally, when smaller airports, which don’t offer enough volume to support a full-time mechanic, are considered, part-time mechanics are the sole source of maintenance support for aircraft based at those fields.
Meanwhile, the FAA is concerned that any modifications to the process might introduce widespread confusion like many past attempts to remedy these issues, such as a clarifying memo sent out in 1988 that was rescinded this past April.
A portion of the proposed draft language reads: “The ASI will evaluate the scope of part-time or occasional activity based on the type of maintenance activity, including any special expertise required, and the quantity of maintenance activity performed.” In order to back up their application, the A&P would be expected to supply documentation of any relevant work. The FAA proposal also contains a section intended to protect FAA inspectors that also hold A&P certificates with IA. The fear is that ethical concerns could cause them to lose their inspection authority. If the proposal is accepted, it will amend FAA Order 8900.1, Volume 5, Chapter 5.